In their pre-election “Pledge to America,” House Republicans promised to cut $100 billion from non-defense discretionary spending, but since then, the GOP has been backpedaling away from that number, which it now calls “hypothetical.” House Republicans like Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) made a concerted effort this week to move the goalposts regarding their spending goals.
But Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) yesterday doubled down on $100 billion in cuts. “No ifs, ands or buts about it,” he said. As the Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein noted this morning, that promise flys in the face of the GOP’s supposed drive against “job-killing” policies:
The other GOP priority is to cut $100 billion this year from the government’s domestic spending, which translates into the loss of close to a million jobs for government workers and contractors. Apparently, in the stylized way that Republicans count things, those positions don’t count as real jobs.
As today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, the labor market is still incredibly fragile. While the unemployment rate ticked down to 9.4 percent, the economy added 103,000 jobs, which was below expectations and nowhere near enough to bring the unemployment rate down significantly even if it’s maintained.
As the New York Times noted, “many economists would argue that immediate federal spending cuts [like the House GOP proposed], especially on top of cuts and layoffs in the cities and states, would threaten the economy’s recovery and offset any stimulus from the tax cut deal Republicans and Mr. Obama reached just weeks ago.” Indeed, throwing another drag on the economy in the form of a huge discretionary spending cut — and the pain that such a cut would entail for state budgets, and therefore teachers, firefighters, and other state employees — would make a weak labor market even worse.
The House GOP has broken plenty of promises in its first few days in power, but in terms of trying to spur a healthy job market, reneging on $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts is actually a good thing. Besides, Boehner himself can’t even name one program that he’d cut from the budget, so following the rest of his caucus in backing away from its promise keeps him from having to find some.