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March 14, 2006
GOP Weakening On Spending Cuts

The Washington Post reports that the Republicans have run into trouble in maintaining their drive for fiscal sanity, with moderate members balking at budget cuts during an election year. Jonathan Weisman writes that several Homeland Security priorities will get more funding than their initial budget requests, putting pressure on Congress to raise taxes:

House and Senate Republicans will seek this week to increase spending on port security, homeland defense, health care and education in a clash with GOP leaders struggling to regain the mantle of fiscal discipline for their party.

With the Senate taking up a budget blueprint for 2007 and the House voting on a $91 billion emergency spending bill, lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol will face key tests of their budget-cutting mettle in the coming days. The federal budget deficit is expected to reach $371 billion this year, despite robust economic growth. But GOP leaders insist they can bring down the deficit without increasing taxes if lawmakers are willing to make tough decisions on federal spending. ...

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) conceded yesterday that a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats may block the adoption of the spending limits in his budget plan. Facing an election-year revolt, Gregg has already dropped the centerpiece of Bush's budget-cutting efforts for 2007, a $37 billion reduction in the growth of Medicare. And he opted against using in the budget resolution parliamentary language that would have helped Bush extend his first-term tax cuts beyond their 2010 expiration date.

"For the great majority in my conference, they'd like to do some aggressive things on spending," he said. "But we need 51 votes. You might have 48 votes, but that's not 51, and it's as simple as that."

In other words, we can thank the same "moderates" who helped bring us the Gang of 14 for this exercise in federal growth, as well as a few others. For instance, Arlen Specter apparently has been reading a little too much of Tom DeLay's press releases. He told the press that Congress is now "beyond cutting the fat and beyond the bone. We're down to the marrow." Specter wants to introduce more expansion in health care, education, and worker safety (by "billions of dollars above the president's request") along with the higher spending on security issues.

Let's look at that fat/meat/bone/marrow analogy a little closer, shall we? The Heritage Foundation has the numbers which make that assertion look entirely asinine. The federal budget has escalated from $1.46T in 1994, when the GOP first came to power in the House, to an estimated $2.77T for this year, almost double in spending. Discretionary spending in that period has increased from $541B to $969B, and even in 2001 only came to $649B. That means that discretionary spending has increased almost 50% in the time when the GOP controlled both the House and the White House.

Did that spending go to defending the nation? Some of it did. Between 2001 and 2006, defense and security spending rose $231B, a 76% increase, but defense is hardly alone. One of Specter's priorities, education, increased a whopping 137% in the same period. Medicare rose 58% and Medicaid 49%. Health research went up 78%. Unemployment benefits increased 27% in a period where unemployment has actually dropped from 2001 levels.

This is the marrow? What would we have seen without the cuts that Specter and others decry so bitterly? In fact, what these politicians criticize as cuts are in reality a lower rate of expansion than they would like. Only a lunatic or a politician could possibly look at these numbers and talk about having cut the federal budget to the meat, bone, or marrow, and only an electorate who believes in a free lunch would resist the urge to tar and feather the purveyors of such idiocy.

I have no problem in spending money on national defense, as that happens to be one of the few Constitutional duties receiving federal largesse. Rather than spending even more of our money and scheming to get their hands on it in greater quantities, Congress should revisit the spending binge of the past fifteen years to pay for our defense. Don't talk to us about cuts to the marrow while feasting on pork.

Addendum: Speaking of pork, did you know that there are seven different species of earmarks? I didn't, until Mark Tapscott played Charles Darwin for me.

UPDATE: Washington Post, not New York Times. Thanks to the several readers who pointed out the error.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 14, 2006 6:41 AM

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