On Wednesday night, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) successfully claimed the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference after his challenger, tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), dropped out of the running. But just hours after his big win, Hensarling, ran into this familiar buzz saw for Republican deficit frauds when on CNN’s Parker/Spitzer he was completely unable to name any significant spending cuts he wants to enact.
Host Elliott Spitzer astutely laid out the hollowness of Hensarling’s proposal to cut $900 billion dollars of annual government spending through a Constitutional amendment by noting that Hensarling’s plans leaves massive portions of the federal budget untouched, making it almost impossible to find nearly a trillion dollars in savings. Hensarling tried to fight back, but offered only feeble talking points and assertions that he didn’t understand Spitzer’s math, prompting Spitzer to remind Hensarling, “Sir, you have a degree in economics.”
Hensarling only ran into more trouble when he spoke of a different plan he has endorsed — Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Roadmap for America’s Future. While proudly saying he has endorsed the Roadmap, Hensarling claims the plan would not “cut one penny” from Social Security or Medicare:
SPITZER: I want to go through category by category so the public can understand where we are. $2.3 trillion of this $3.8 trillion is in couple of areas, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt and defense spending, right? We can agree on that, I presume, right? That’s straight out of the federal budget. Now, are you willing to cut Social Security 25 percent this year?
HENSARLING: Oh, absolutely not. And again, Eliot, you know that you don’t have to cut one penny out of these programs. What you do have to do is ensure they don’t grow faster than the economy’s ability to pay for them. We can’t have Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid grow at 5, 6 and 7 percent and the economy grow at 1.5 percent. … You have to bend the growth curve so they don’t grow as fast. I have co-sponsored Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future.” Not one penny of these programs is cut.
Hensarling — who does indeed have an economics degree from Texas A & M University — is either gravely misinformed about the plan he is endorsing, or willingly misleading the American people. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo noted, “the Roadmap is an explicit attempt to balance the federal budget via severe cuts to Medicare and Social Security.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, the “Ryan plan proposes large cuts in Social Security benefits — roughly 16 percent for the average new retiree in 2050 and 28 percent in 2080 from price indexing alone.” Meanwhile, “By 2080, Medicare would be cut 76 percent below its projected size under current policies.”
And after all that, Ryan’s Roadmap still won’t balance the budget. As the New York Times’ Paul Krugman noted, “the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.”