During this campaign season, many Republicans were loathe to lay out any spending cuts that they would make in order to offset their desire to extend all of the Bush tax cuts. Extending the entirety of the Bush tax package would cost nearly $4 trillion over ten years, including about $830 billion to extend the cuts for the richest two percent of Americans alone. House Republicans, though — including Pledge to America architect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — simply said that they would cut discretionary spending across-the-board to offset that cost. “The line item would be across-the-board,” McCarthy asserted.
Even though election night was upon them and a new majority secured, House Republicans weren’t any more willing to lay out specific spending cuts last night. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that the most important thing that Congress can do is extend the Bush tax cuts. But when Matthews pressed her for spending reductions, Blackburn only named parts of the budget that she has deemed off-limits for cuts. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) did the same, refusing to name a specific cut in two separate interviews. Watch a compilation:
Contrary to one of Blackburn’s assertions, defense spending is part of the discretionary budget. The Sustainable Task Force — composed of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and some of the nation’s leading defense and budget experts — has identified nearly $1 trillion in waste that can be cut from the defense budget over the next ten years by simply eliminating unnecessary Cold War-era programs.
Blackburn and Cantor seem to be under the impression that there is nothing that matters in the non-defense discretionary portion of the budget. But that portion of the budget includes all federal education funding, some veteran’s benefits, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, federal highway funding, the National Park Service, the Coast Guard, and Congress itself.
Will House Republicans be reducing all of those across-the-board? It isn’t likely, which means that that they will have to make even deeper cuts to some programs to achieve their desired savings. Of course, they could just be confirming that they agree with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s pronouncement that giving tax breaks to the rich is deficit spending that Republicans support!
The Center for American Progress, meanwhile, has identified $100 billion in defense programs (that won’t compromise national security), $45 billion in subsidies to oil companies, $1 billion in tax expenditures for big agricultural firms, $2 billion in unnecessary stock ownership incentives for the rich, and hundreds of millions in redundant or duplicative education programs that could be cut.