Florida’s Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio has already made it abundantly clear that he is not serious about addressing the country’s long-term structural deficit. He is in favor of permanently extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich — at a cost of $830 billion over ten years — while simultaneously proposing a slew of new budget busting tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. But just in case we needed some more evidence of Rubio’s deficit peacockery, he was happy to provide it during an interview last night with Fox Business’ David Asman. Rubio said that his plan for addressing the nation’s fiscal situation amounts to a constitutional amendment requiring a federal balanced budget, banning earmarks, unspecified entitlement reform, and putting “term limits” on federal agencies — excluding defense, of course:
RUBIO: The second thing we have to do is spending constraints. That means a constitutionally balanced budget, that means banning the practice of earmarks, and ultimately that means entitlement reform. [...]
ASMAN: Might you also have to go even farther than Ronald Reagan did and reversing thing like the department — when Jimmy Carter started the Department of Education, he said it would improve our test scores and make schools more efficient. In fact, we’ve had just the opposite. When he created the Department of Energy, that was to get us off of a dependence on foreign oil. Well guess what, we’re a lot more dependent on foreign oil. What about getting rid of two departments like these?
RUBIO: Well, here’s what I think. I think every non-defense department, every non-defense discretionary spending program should be sunsetted every 10 years. Every 10 years, those programs should sunset and we should require that they be reauthorized by Congress. That means they’re going to have to justify their existence. Look at it this way, it’s like term limits on agencies.
Rubio’s plan for reforming entitlements is shockingly non-specific, but in the past he has been sympathetic to simply slicing benefits for younger Americans. Earmarks, meanwhile, constitute less than one percent of federal discretionary spending, so eliminating them entirely does essentially nothing to the structural deficit. As The Wonk Room explains, the rest of Rubio’s plan is not only politically ridiculous, but even conservatives think it would be economically destructive.
Michael Linden, CAP’s Associate Director for Tax and Budget Policy, sends along an additional point:
Rubio says, “I think every non-defense department, every non-defense discretionary spending program should be sunsetted every 10 years.”
Every dollar of discretionary spending already has to be reappropriated every single year. That, in fact, is the defining characteristic of a discretionary program. Indeed, the whole point of the annual budget process is to give Congress the opportunity to change the funding or even eliminate the funding for any discretionary program it likes. The key word there was “annual.” It happens every year. Already.
Wow. Who is this guy’s budget advisor? He should get a new one.