Last week, after House Republicans released their “Pledge to America” — which waxed poetic about the need to reduce government spending — the plan’s architect, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was unable to name a single program that he’d cut from the federal budget. McCarthy joined a whole host of House Republicans, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), who are unable to name one item that they’d axe from the budget.
But this problem has also afflicted Republican Senate candidates, as Carly Fiorina (CA) was unable to provide CNBC with any specifics regarding what she’d like to see removed from the budget. And Fiorina has now been joined by Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson, who asserts that there is billions available for cutting, but refuses to say where any of it is:
“There’s billions of dollars…that from my standpoint would be available for cutting. But I’m not going to get in the game here and, you know, start naming specific things to be attacked about, quite honestly,” said Johnson. [...]
“If you’ve got a tough budget in business, you go to all the departments and go, ‘OK, 10% cut across the board, figure out where you cut.’” Asked if he thinks it’s the role of a senator to identify such cuts, Johnson responded: “I would just respectfully disagree. I think the first priority is to establish that spending cap, and be dedicated to doing that.”
Johnson did cite repealing the Affordable Care Act and preventing the outlay of any more Recovery Act funding as ways to save money, even though the former would add to the deficit and the latter would increase middle class taxes and have no effect on the structural deficit.
Simply asserting that you’d implement an across-the-board spending cut shows you’re fundamentally disinterested in serious budgeting, as such a cut makes no attempt to prioritize between necessary programs that people depend upon and programs that are less important. Is Johnson willing to cut federal education funding, FEMA, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Park System, federal highway funding, food safety inspection, and the Secret Service, which are all on the discretionary side of the budget? If not, he’ll have to find larger savings elsewhere to compensate, or raid entitlement programs.
It’s precisely because such large cuts would be required to vital and popular programs, if we were to balance the budget without tax increases, that Republicans don’t want to detail them. But Johnson is far from the only one who thinks that he should be elected before laying out specifics regarding his policies. Linda McMahon, the Republican senate candidate in Connecticut, said that she won’t divulge her position regarding Social Security. “I’m not adverse to talking in the right time or forum about what we need to do relative to our entitlements,” McMahon said. “I just don’t believe that the campaign trail is the right place to talk about that.”