Touting her outisde, business-executive saavy, GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina (R-CA) constantly chants the GOP mantra to cut government spending. She even released a budget plan last month intended to prove that she’d “rein in out-of-control government spending.” But, in telling her constituents that she will cut government spending, Fiorina seems undaunted by one minor fact: she has no idea how.
Today on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace gave Fiorina a chance to lay out her actual plan. Touting her “tough, bottom-line business executive” motto, Wallace pointed out that Fiorina also wants “to extend all, all the Bush tax cuts which would add $4 trillion dollars to the deficit…where are you going to find $4 trillion dollars to cut?” But when Fiorina retreated to recycled response of government waste and an earmarks ban, a frustrated Wallace begged Fiorina seven times to “name one single entitlement expenditure you’re willing to cut” because “that’s where the money is.” Fiorina’s only response? “You’re asking a typical political question”:
WALLACE: You’re campaigning and you just alluded to it, to your record as a tough, bottom line, former business executive. But you want to extend all the Bush tax cuts which would add 4 trillion to the deficit. You say balance the budget by cutting spending. Question, as a bottom line businesswoman, where are you going to find $4 trillion to cut?
FIORINA: …We don’t know how taxpayer money is spent in Washington, D.C, which is why I think we ought to put every agency budget up on the internet for everyone to see, ban earmarks, and we ought to give citizens the opportunity to desginate up to 10% of their federal income tax toward debt reduction. If we did, that we would reduce our debt by $95 billion a year.
WALLACE: Miss Fiorina, the traditional ways that people talk about non-discretionary – I mean discretionary, non-defense spending is only 16% of the budget. You could cut all of that out, all for education and energy, and for police support and government worker support around the country, it wouldn’t be anywhere close to $4 trillion. Where are you going to get that kind of money if you extend all of the bust era tax cuts. That only adds to the deficit. It doesn’t even deal with the deficit we already have.
FIORINA: Well, of course, first the thing we need to do, to deal with our debt and our deficit is to both cut spending and grow the economy. That’s fundamentally what we have to do. Those tax cuts are central to growing the economy. Indeed, I would argue there are some additional tax cuts we need to make.[...]
WALLACE: Miss Fiorina, let me ask you a specific question because I still haven’t gotten many specifics on how you will cut $4 trillion and more out of the budget. Back when there was talk about a non-partisan, or a bipartisan deficit, debt commission you blasted that idea in January and said we know all the solutions. We don’t need another commission to study it. Now…you tell me specifically what are you going to do to cut the billions, the trillions of dollars in entitlements?
FIORINA: First, I didn’t blast the commission saying we already had solutions. I blasted the commission because I believed it was a feint for tax increases.[...]
WALLACE: But forgive me, Miss Fiorina, where are you going to cut entitlements? What benefits are you going to cut? What eligibility are you doing..
FIORINA: Chris, I have to say, with all due respect, you’re asking a typical political question.[...]
WALLACE: It may be a typical political question but that’s where the money is. The money is in Medicare and Social Security. We have baby-boomers coming. There will be a huge explosion of entitlement explosion and you call it a political question when I ask you to name one single entitlement you are willing to cut.
FIORINA: Chris, I believe to deal with entitlement reform, which we must deal with, we ought to put every possible solution on the table, except we should be very clear we are not going to cut benefits to those nearing retirement or those nearing retirement or those in retirement.[...]
WALLACE: I’m going to try one last time, and if you don’t want to answer it, Miss Fiorina, you don’t have to.
FIORINA: It’s not a question of not wanting to answer it!
WALLACE: Let me ask the question, if I may, please. You’re not willing to put forward a single benefit – I’m not talking about the people 60 or let alone 65, or 70. I’m talking about people under 55. You’re not willing to say there is a single benefit eligibility for Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security that you are willing to say “Yeah, I would cut that?”
FIORINA: What I think we need to do to engage the American people in a conversation about entitlement reform is to have a bipartisan group of people who come together and put every solution on the table, every alternative on the table. Then we ought to engage in a long conversation with the American people so they understand the choices.
Wallace’s exasperation is understandable. For all of Fiorina’s bluster about government spending, her solutions don’t add up to any serious impact. An earmark ban would only account for less than one percent of the federal budget and eliminating ineffective or duplicative programs would not come close to addressing the deficit. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo points out, she’d have to eliminate the entire discretionary budget — which includes defense spending defense spending, all federal education funding, some veteran’s benefits, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, federal highway funding, and Congress itself — to eliminate the deficit. In fact, the only “solution” Fiorina has offered is to defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — an agency that does not yet exist.
While frustrating, Fiorina’s lack of solutions should not be surprising. As a member of the GOP, Fiorina joins a slew of Republicans in their refusal to offer any deficit solutions no matter how many times a reporter may beg: