Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crunch Time

You can tell that the budget and debt talks are getting near the end because the Republicans are starting to come up with some really wild ideas. The latest: “cut, cap, and balance.”

The House Rules Committee is expected to take up the measure Monday, and it is likely to receive a floor vote on Tuesday. The measure would cut spending in fiscal 2012 by $111 billion, cap future spending at 19.9 percent of gross domestic product and allow for the debt ceiling to be increased if a balanced-budget amendment is approved by Congress and sent to the states.

Not surprisingly, the president has threatened to veto the plan, which didn’t have a snowball’s chance of passing the Senate anyway.

“It’s disappointing the White House would reject this common-sense plan to rein in the debt and deficits that are hurting job creation in America,” Boehner said in a statement. “While American families have to set priorities and balance their books, this White House obviously isn’t serious about making the same tough choices.

“This unfortunate veto threat should make clear that the issue is not congressional inaction, but rather the president’s unwillingness to cut spending and restrain the future growth of our government. If we are going to raise the debt limit and avoid default, the White House must be willing to demonstrate more courage than we have seen to date,” Boehner said.

Okay, let’s unpack this a little. First, when someone calls a plan like this “common sense,” you know he’s probably lost his own senses. (Both Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann say they offer “common sense” solutions to America’s problems. Case closed.) No economist who isn’t living in a box on Biscayne Boulevard would call this idea anything but remarkably stupid, and amending the Constitution to solve a non-existent problem — after all, Bill Clinton managed to generate a budget surplus twelve years ago — shows a complete lack of respect for the intelligence of the American people. They’re not buying it.

So we’re getting down to crunch time. One way of looking at it is that the crazier the ideas get, the closer we must be getting to a deal, and probably one that the Tea Party will really hate. Otherwise Boehner & Co. wouldn’t be throwing them this really ugly bone.