Column of the Day: Republicans Have No Viable Plan to Balance the Budget

Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein

Led by newly empowered firebrands, Republicans in the House are working on a plan to slash spending and balance the federal budget within 10 years. According to The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell, there are several problems with this effort, not least the fact that Republicans seem to have no idea how they can accomplish their goal.

“They say they want to reduce deficits,” Rampell writes in an op-ed Tuesday, “but meanwhile have ruled out virtually every path for doing so (cuts to defense, cuts to entitlements, wiping out nondefense discretionary spending, or raising taxes).”

Some GOP lawmakers have said that everything is on the table for possible cuts, but others have quickly pulled whole sections of the federal budget back from the chopping block. For example, both House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) have said they are open to reductions in defense spending, but House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) have said no to that idea.

Instead of military cuts, Waltz said lawmakers need to look at “entitlements programs,” which would include Social Security and Medicare. But Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and former president Donald Trump, among others, have ruled that option out. “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump warned last week.

One thing that does seem to be acceptable to Republican lawmakers is cutting funds for what some conservatives call “wokeism,” but as Rampell notes, there isn’t really a line item for that in the federal budget.

So, faced with a roughly $20 trillion shortfall in the budget over the next 10 years, and standing firm with their principled refusal to raise taxes, Republicans would have to make ruthless cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. “Closing that gap would require eliminating nearly all other domestic spending,” Rampell writes. “That means axing border protection, air-traffic control, farm subsidies, infrastructure and many other categories that both voters and elected officials hold dear.”

But voters – and even some Republican lawmakers – may not embrace such a draconian approach. “In short, virtually every possible avenue available for reducing the deficit would be unpopular,” Rampell says. “Which probably explains why supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans chose not to take them when they controlled both houses of Congress during Trump’s presidency.”

Read Rampell’s column at The Washington Post.

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