The Corner

The RSC Budget

The Republican Study Committee (RSC) recently unveiled its FY 2013 budget. As the document provided shows, the plan offers some interesting features. For instance, it balances the budget through spending cuts within five years. It meets the level of sequestration cuts agreed to in the Budget Control Act. It also tackles Medicare and Medicaid reforms and adds Social Security to the list while engaging in fundamental tax reform.

Unfortunately, while the plan meets the sequestration number, it exempts defense from scheduled sequestration cuts. Now, it is important to note that the key authors of this plan, Representatives Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), didn’t vote for the debt-ceiling deal last summer. It must also be said that as imperfect as their budget is on this front, they do a better job at enforcing sequestration at least in size than lawmakers who supported the deal.

As you know, I think it is still a mistake to leave defense off the hook.

  • Washington’s rhetoric of calling for a reduction in the growth of spending “a dramatic cut” doesn’t change the fact that even under sequestration, defense spending would grow by 10 percent over ten years as opposed to 18 percent. 

  • A serious budget should put everything on the table. Jordan and Garrett seemed to agree with the idea in the past and in recent conversations. (However, I am not sure that is consistent with the fact that their budget will continue to grow defense spending over the next ten years after years of rapid growth.)

  • Concentrating the cuts to non-defense discretionary spending probably means that none of the cuts will materialize. Remember Gramm-Rodman-Hollings? That framework fell apart after large parts of the budget were exempted from sequestration (entitlement and defense, pretty much) leaving all cuts to come from a small number of programs.

Finally, while the budget proposes to address the Medicare and Social Security spending explosion (but argues that it will “save Medicare” and “safeguard Social Security,” so one wonders what the reforms will really achieve), it puts off the reforms for ten years. As the sequestration fiasco demonstrates, Congress can’t even tie its own hand for a year. Why on earth should we believe that this budget will tie the hands of a different Congress a decade from now?

That being said, this plan is evidence that Republicans are listening to feedback from those who know that we will never have a better future for our children unless we radically reduce the size of government. The RSC tries to go further than many of its own Republican colleagues are willing to go. Its plan also offers a healthy competition to the main Republican-leadership plan, rendering it an opening bid rather than a final word.

Veronique de Rugy — Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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