Today, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) sent President Obama a proposal with budget cuts that they claim could save taxpayers “in excess of $375 billion.” From their letter to Obama:
Of course, reducing spending is never easy. … The proposed terminations and reductions your Administration released last month garnered immediate opposition from many Democrats. Likewise, the proposals we have put forward here will not be supported by all Republicans. However, if we work together, we are confident that we can come up with a common-sense package of entitlement reforms, program terminations, and spending reductions that will generate significant savings for the American taxpayer and reduce our current deficit. For example, enactment of the proposals we have outlined in the enclosed document could save taxpayers in excess of $375 billion [over the next five years].
First of all, Boehner and Cantor are inflating their cuts. Their proposal actually equates to just $23 billion in spending cuts over the next five years. As the AP points out, many of the GOP cuts “haven’t been estimated by federal scorekeepers and the party has padded its own estimate by assuming $317 billion over the next five years from limiting non-defense agency budgets to inflation-adjusted levels that Obama is sure to reject.”
Second, Republicans are planning to slash more than just “wasteful and unnecessary spending,” as Boehner and Cantor wrote in their letter to Obama. A small sampling of the proposed cuts:
— Termination of the Women’s Educational Equity program. The Department of Education program “promotes education equity for women and girls through competitive grants.” In Boehner and Cantor’s proposal, the justification for slashing the program is that it’s “no longer needed.”
— Elimination of the Safe Routes to Schools program. The program “pays for building sidewalks, bike paths and crossing guards.” Not only does the program encourage green community practices, but also aims to increase safety and improve public health.
— Elimination of the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program. The Byrd Honors program provides scholarships to “exceptionally able high school seniors who show promise of continued excellence in postsecondary education.” Boehner and Cantor’s proposal calls it an “ineffective federal education program.”
— Elimination of the Technology Innovation Program. The program supports “high-risk, high-reward, pre-competitive technology development.” According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), it is a key part of ensuring U.S. global competitiveness “through a new emphasis on math, science, engineering, and technology education, and a renewed commitment to basic research.”
The AP notes that there are “plenty of political proposals” in the GOP plan as well, including “a move to abolish the $4 million budget of a House panel on global warming and to block federal employees who are union activists from being granted time to devote all of their work time to union activities.”
Matt Yglesias adds, “When the Obama administration proposed $17 billion in federal spending cuts, the announcement was generally met with mild derision at what a small share of the overall pie that is. But the point is that they found $17 billion dollars worth of cuts that there are actual reasons to believe are worth making. It’s easy to generate a high headline number by being arbitrary. But it’s also easy to do devastating damage to the country.”