Our guest blogger is Michael Linden, Associate Director of Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.Yesterday, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and an anti-tax zealot, bragged that Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate have pledged to him that they will oppose any deficit reduction proposal that includes increased taxes:
“I’ve talked to the Senate leadership and House leadership. They’re not voting on tax increases and they know that,” Norquist told The Hill Friday.
Norquist said he has received the same promise from Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), who are negotiating a deficit reduction package with Democrats.
Let’s put aside, for the moment, that a promise of this nature marks Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) as deficit peacocks of the highest order. Given Norquist’s apparent veto-power over Congressional Republicans, what kind of deficit reduction package will they be allowed to support?
It’ll be ugly, that’s for sure. We can safely assume that Mr. Norquist will give the thumbs down to any proposal that would allow currently “temporary” tax cuts to expire. Of course, that includes the entire panoply of Bush tax cuts, but it also includes dozens of other tax cuts that are routinely extended at the end of every year. Keep all these tax cuts in place, and the deficit in 2015 will be about $1.1 trillion — that’s almost $600 billion higher than the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline, and nearly $300 billion higher than the president’s budget proposal. To get that deficit down to under $500 billion, without any tax increases, would mean a 15 percent across the board spending cut.
To put that number in perspective, the current proposal from the House Republicans to cut $61 billion from discretionary spending — which would mean hundreds of thousands of job losses, slower economic growth over the long term, massively rolling back services for children, undermining the safety and health of all Americans and seriously fraying the social safety net — amounts to 6 percent of discretionary spending.
For Republicans to keep their promise to Norquist, they’ll need cuts more than twice as big, and not limited to just discretionary spending.
But Norquist isn’t the only one taking promises from Republicans. GOP budget chief Paul Ryan (R-WI) has also promised “no changes” for current retirees or for those near retirement. That means a true across the board spending cut is pretty much out of the question, since you can’t cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by 15 percent without making a few rather substantial changes.
To keep both of their promises, then, the GOP will need to cut the rest of the budget by more than 30 percent just to get the deficit down to under $500 billion. If the Pentagon gets exempted from massive cuts, then everything else will have to be cut by 50 percent. Read more