Luce on the Pledge

The FT’s Ed Luce has a smart take on the Pledge to America:

In contrast, John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, flanked by the “Young Guns”, only one of whom is younger than Mr Cameron, promised to maintain all the tax cuts that George W. Bush instituted, never raise any taxes again in any shape or form, and do all this while restoring America’s budget to balance.

All of which might have been plausible were it to have spelt out the draconian spending cuts that would therefore be necessary to bring the budget back to surplus. But it declined to do so. Instead it ring-fenced more than three-quarters of the US federal budget — social security, Medicare and defence spending — and promised to impose caps on the remaining, “discretionary” portion of it.

Indeed, as our CAP chart indicates the Pledge plan would make deficits appreciably higher than the Obama budget.


The only question at this point is why this comes as a surprise to anyone. Since 1980, we’ve had two movement conservative presidents and this is what they both did — cut taxes drastically, increased military spending, reduced spending on a few things, blew up the deficit, and relaxed regulatory enforcement. Both George HW Bush and Bill Clinton reduced the deficit with a mix of higher taxes and lower spending, and both were denounced by the right for doing so. But deficit reduction isn’t a mystery. You need higher taxes and lower spending.