We’ve been following the trials and tribulations of various Republican candidates and lawmakers as they are asked, after waxing poetic about the need to cut government spending, which program they’d remove from the federal budget. One of the many who were unable to cite a single program was Carly Fiorina, California’s Republican senate nominee.
You’d think that, having failed to name one program to cut while on live television, Fiorina might take some time to find specific budget reductions before releasing a plan on how she would reduce the deficit. But Fiorina released her plan “to rein in out-of-control government spending” yesterday, and it literally has no proposals for spending to cut, aside from ending earmarks, which account for less than one percent of the federal budget.
Fiorina promises to cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, and then has this to say about where the cuts to get to that level will come from:
– Review every government program as their authorizations expire to ensure only effective programs receive additional funding.
– Terminate ineffective programs that are unable to be reformed such that they have a positive impact.
– End earmarks and sweetheart deals and give the president the authority to line item veto any spending not in the national interest.
That’s it: “terminate ineffective programs.” And we’re all for terminating ineffective programs! In fact, here’s $100 billion in the Defense Department and hundreds of millions in the Education Department that could be cut, just to get the ball rolling. Fiorina’s inability to even suggest one program that she would eliminate shows how fundamentally disinterested she is in actually controlling spending.
Of course, eliminating ineffective and duplicative programs won’t get you anywhere close to bringing the budget into balance. In fact, you’d have to eliminate the entire discretionary side of the budget — including discretionary defense spending, all federal education funding, some veteran’s benefits, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, federal highway funding, and Congress itself — to eliminate the deficit.
The real structural deficit is a result of health care spending, defense spending, and massive tax cuts, none of which Fiorina suggests cutting by one dime.
Interestingly enough, though, Fiorina may have accidentally come out in favor of a tax increase. She says she would cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP — which is where it was the last time the budget was balanced and far below the levels of the Reagan administration — but revenues through 2015 are not projected to go higher than 19 percent of GDP. So either Fiorina is going to have to cut further than even she says we need to, or she’s going to have to raise some taxes.
I understand that candidates are hesitant to say exactly which programs they’d cut, because such choices will inevitably be unpopular with someone. But is it too much to ask that a plan explicitly about reducing spending actually lay out some ways to reduce spending?