As ThinkProgress has repeatedly noted, despite their professed commitment to cut government spending, most Republicans in Congress refuse to propose specifics that would actually cut spending in any significant way. Recognizing the extreme unpopularity of cutting Social Security and Medicare, and the aversion of their base to military cuts, these self-styled fiscal conservatives often take entitlement and defense spending off the table, removing nearly 60 percent of the federal budget from scrutiny. Of the remaining spending, another sizable portion goes to debt payments — which are untouchable — and most Republicans also take homeland security and other security spending off the table, leaving only a small fraction of the total federal budget from which to find cuts.
Despite this stark reality, Republicans still try to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility, and are forced to fumble, hem and haw when pressed on how they would actually cut spending. But at least one Republican leader is willing to be honest. Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) essentially called his party’s congressional leaders liars, saying anybody says they want to cut spending but won’t touch entitlements or defesne is “lying to you”:
HOST: What are you going to cut?
PAWLENTY: If you look at a pie chart of federal outlays, discretionary spending being the red, non-discretionary being the blue. The blue is already over the over the half way mark and it’s growing in double digits. Anybody who comes in here and tells you they’re not going to cut anything other than waste fraud and abuse, they’re not going to touch entitlements — they’re lying to you. If you want to deal with the spending issue, in terms of total federal outlays, you got to deal with interest on the national debt, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — if you have the time I can walk you through my ideas. But that’s the truth, you got to do entitlement reform, particularly if you’re going to hold defense harmless.
Pawlenty called out this “lying” because he openly favors cuts to entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. This is an unpopular position, so Republican congressional leaders often attempt to claim that no one in their ranks wants to cut these programs. However, this is patently false; ThinkProgress has identified 104 Republicans in Congress who support privatizing Social Security. Progressives have alternatively proposed defense spending cuts, eliminating corporate welfare elimination, and responsible revenue increases.
If these congressional Republicans are serious about cutting spending and want to make cuts to Social Securiy or Medicare, they should have the courage to say so honestly, as Pawlenty seems to be calling on them to do, instead of hiding behind phony claims that they can make meaningful cuts without causing significant pain.