Paul Krugman says the Republican Party has declared war on arithmetic. The Pledge to America promises to extend the Bush tax cuts and balance the federal budget by cutting everything but “common sense” exceptions for “seniors, veterans, and our troops.â€ Krugman interprets this to mean that Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are not on the table, but we’ll return to this point later.
Anyway, Krugman continues,
Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they wonâ€™t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: â€œNo more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.â€
For many years it’s been an article of faith among Wingnuts that if the feds could just cut out programs that assist the poor, plus other “frills” like the Department of Education and the National Council on the Arts, that the budget would balance. In reality, except for Social Security and Medicare, cutting all the programs wingnuts don’t like would barely scratch the surface of the deficit.
As Steve Benen says, Republicans “believe they have a policy agenda because they published a document they call a ‘policy agenda.’ … They find pesky details like arithmetic to be annoying distractions.”
And, of course to today’s Republicans a “policy agenda” is just a prop, a stack of paper to add gravitas to their dog-and-pony act du jour. And the point is to help them win elections. Krugman continues,
And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.
That, and turning the keys to government over to their corporate sponsors.
Even the editorial writers of the Washington Post smell a scam:
The Republicans would repeal the Obama health-care plan, a plan that at least holds out the prospect of slowing the growth of health-care spending in general and Medicare in particular. An earlier proposal by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) at least had the honesty to outline major, if unwise, changes in Medicare; he would turn it into a voucher program. By contrast, the “Pledge” vows grandly to “make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations. That means requiring a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, setting benchmarks for these programs and reviewing them regularly, and preventing the expansion of unfunded liabilities.” Asked about this big fat asterisk, Mr. Boehner promised “an adult conversation.” When? What was this, the children’s hour?
This paragraph was, of course, followed by the obligatory “Democrats are just as bad” clause. Hey, it’s the Washington Post.
Going back to Krugman– he says that while it is doubtful the GOP will be able to enact its real agenda in the near future, the real danger is that “Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way.” And as the quality of life in the United States deteriorates, so will go political stability. Hey, what was it the neocons used to say about “creative chaos“?