Last October, during the height of his campaign for U.S. Senate in Utah, Sen. Mike Lee (then a Republican candidate) called for a 40 percent cut in federal spending in order to balance the budget. After his opponent pointed out that the idea is “ridiculously irresponsible” and would cause “utter chaos,” the campaign backed away from Lee’s demand, and he appears not to have made it since.
Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) similarly proposed outlandish budget cuts, claiming, “My staff and I sat down, we’ve looked at the federal budget, and just our first swipe across the budget, so to speak, we’ve come up with about $450 billion worth of cuts.” Of course, Bachamann has yet to offer any specifics. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he’ll introduce “a one-year, $500 billion spending cut” this month, but that remains to be seen. This week at a town hall meeting in Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) one-upped Bachmann and his new Tea Party colleague:
He said in 1980, the U.S owed $909 billion but in 2010, the debt was $13.5 trillion, and that estimate is expected to hit the $23 trillion mark by 2020, unless there is change.
“This is a road to financial destruction,” Shelby said. “No family could operate like that. … We continue to borrow instead of cutting spending. The day of reckoning is coming.”
He said tough choices have to be made. Shelby said government should streamline.
“I honestly believe we could cut 30 percent across the board,” he said.
That’s right. According to Shelby, the government can reduce spending by more than $1 trillion. The U.S. federal government is expected to spend around $3.8 trillion in FY 2011. In order to cut 30 percent off that, Shelby would have to come up with $1.14 trillion in savings. But according to Shelby, to achieve this lofty goal, all Congress would have to do is review and analyze programs that started 20 years ago to see if they’re still working. “We don’t know if a program we created in 1980 is still working today,” he said.
Indeed, it’s difficult to conceive of where these spending reductions would be coming from. After all, the House GOP laid out a plan last year to cut $100 billion in spending but found out once they took control in January that they could only find around $50 billion to carve out.
But what would implementing Shelby’s plan mean in practical terms? He would need “across the board” cuts — which includes Medicare and Social Security — because leaving that mandatory spending alone would require eliminating nearly all of the discretionary budget, which includes such expenditures as defense and education.
According to the St. Clair Times, Shelby didn’t offer any specific cuts. ThinkProgress inquired with his office, but they have yet to respond for comment.
Shelby spokesperson Pam Simpson told ThinkProgress that she is unaware of either of Shelby’s 30 percent or 10 percent plans and said the Alabama senator wants to revert back to 2008 spending levels.
,At a town hall event yesterday, Shelby called for 10 percent across the board cuts. It is unclear which reduction figure, 10 percent or 30 percent, he is officially advocating.