Clarity on the Budget Debate
By David Henderson
Most of the media have done a worse job than usual of reporting on the debt ceiling/budget debate. Specifically, when one side or the other offers a deal, the media don’t typically tell us when the budget cuts would come, whether they are locked in or subject to further negotiation, what baseline they’re from, etc. For that reason, even though I consider myself quite numerate and able to make fine distinctions, I have gotten lost.
Until now. My Hoover colleague, Keith Hennessey, has added a lot of clarity with this recent post. Hennessey does have a dog in the fight–he prefers spending cuts to tax increases. But I have generally found his posts on budget issues, which he got to know well while in the Bush II administration, quite informative.
Popular storyline: In an attempt to get a Grand Bargain, President Obama proposed a centrist deficit reduction package. Congressional Republicans rejected that package only because it raised taxes, and were unreasonable for doing so. Like his fiscal commission cochairs Bowles & Simpson, the President proposed a responsible and balanced package of tax increases and long-term spending cuts that would solve our Nation’s fiscal problems. Because they are unwilling to consider tax increases, Republicans are therefore to blame for the failure of a Grand Bargain and for future fiscal collapse.
The problem with this storyline is that eight months ago three prominent Senate Republicans supported the Bowles-Simpson recommendations, which contained a net tax increase. The House Republicans on the commission did not support those recommendations, but Senators Coburn, Crapo, and Gregg did. No one would call any of these three men moderates – all are clearly conservative.
The whole thing is worth reading because it’s long on specifics.