Earlier this month, after President Obama made a deal with congressional Republicans, Congress passed a bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two years, in exchange for a 13-month unemployment insurance extension. Obama and most Democrats begrudged giving the rich more tax breaks, but Republicans rejoiced. Before the deal, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) fiercely advocated for extending the cuts for the rich. Despite the more than $800 billion cost to extend them, Coburn argued that tax cuts don’t have to be paid for.
Today on Fox News Sunday, the Oklahoma senator repeatedly said the federal government should reduce spending. Host Chris Wallace pressed for specifics, but Coburn couldn’t offer up much. “That remains to be seen,” he said, and, “We haven’t even done the hard work of identifying all the duplications in the federal government.” To his credit, Coburn noted that the Pentagon needs some auditing help, but he repeatedly threw out some random amounts of money that could be cut ($50 billion, $100 billion, $200 billion, and $350 billion) without saying exactly where that money would come from. But now that the tax cut deal is done and the President signed it into law, it appears that Coburn now thinks the rich are going to have to start sacrificing too:
COBURN: We could certainly cut $100 to $200 billion and help ourself. [sic] …There cannot be anything that’s not put on the table. There will not be one American that will not be called on to sacrifice. Those that are more well to do will be called on to sacrifice to a greater extent.
We could save about $50 billion a year by eliminating programs. … [W]e have a realm of about $350 billion that will not truly impact anybody in this country that we could eliminate tomorrow.
There is one sure way that the federal government could save hundreds of billions of dollars “tomorrow”: eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which of course Coburn would never advocate doing. The Joint Committee on Taxation said that the Obama-brokered tax cut deal — most of which go to the rich — will cost the federal government more than $400 billion over the next two years.
But if Coburn needs help with ideas on specific spending cuts, the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo notes that the Center for American Progress has identified $100 billion in defense programs (that won’t compromise national security), $45 billion in subsidies to oil companies, $1 billion in tax expenditures for big agricultural firms, $2 billion in unnecessary stock ownership incentives for the rich, and hundreds of millions in redundant or duplicative education programs that could be cut.