Budgeting, Pence-Style

Reps Mike Pence and Jeb Hensarling have a “plan” to reduce government spending by writing a constitutional amendment that would restrict spending to 20 percent of GDP.

Daniel Gross decided to follow this idea up with a bit of reporting:

I e-mailed Mary Vought, press secretary of the House Republican Conference, to see if Reps. Pence and Hensarling had any specific ideas of what to cut. The answer: not really. “That’s not what the Spending Limit Amendment is about,” she e-mailed back. The congressmen do have ideas to reform spending, but the real issue is to focus on the process. “Talking about savings in the budget before we have even decided how much the savings need to be is putting the cart before the horse.”

I don’t have much of a settled view about Jeb Hensarling, but we’re seeing here again that Mike Pence is a stone-cold idiot. In terms of carts and horses, this is just bizarre. The appropriate level of overall government spending should be determined by adding up the level of specific spending on worthwhile things. Programs that are ineffective, or whose impact is small relative to the impact of the taxes needed to pay for them, should be cut or eliminated. Programs that are good should be maintained or expanded. Settling on an arbitrary number first and then making unspecified cuts to reach the target is ridiculous.