The House and Senate budget resolutions virtually rubber-stamp the president’s budget. By enacting the largest peacetime debt buildup in history, the Democrats have surrendered whatever moral authority they could have claimed on deficit opposition. The same party that condemned President Bush for running temporary $300-$400 billion deficits (partially resulting from the war) has now approved budget deficits averaging $1 trillion annually over the next decade. That is a staggering $68,000 per household of new debt, to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. And after quadrupling the budget deficit in one year, fulfilling their pledge to “cut the deficit in half” from that level by 2013 shouldn’t impress anyone.
Moving forward to the conference, Congress may still attempt to add in full Senate reconciliation (requiring only 50 votes for passage) for cap-and-trade and health care reform. If that occurs, they may try to use cap-and-trade revenues to fund their expensive health reform plans (thus rejecting the president’s Make Work Pay credit and his call to limit tax deductions for upper income taxpayers). Democrats could tell Republicans that if they don’t provide bipartisan cover to their health and energy reforms in regular order, they would invoke reconciliation and pass an even more liberal bill by themselves.
Credit must be given Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wis.) for offering a responsible alternative blueprint. It is telling that a proposal with average spending at 20.7% of GDP — a level even higher than under Bush or Clinton — was derided by Democrats as a savage attack on government. This budget simplified the tax code, provided tax relief, reformed Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and still ran deficits $3.2 trillion less than President Obama would. Alas, Democrats who campaigned on “making tough choices” refused to vote for a budget that actually did.
– Brian Riedl is Grover M. Hermann fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at The Heritage Foundation.