Nobody in Congress really cares about the deficit. Sure, everyone would love to cut the deficit as long as it doesn’t mean having to cut any programs they like. What it comes down to is that everyone thinks their own pet priorities are worth expanding the deficit. The only things that are too expensive are the programs they don’t like anyway. None of them want to rein in their own spending. Just everybody else’s.
There should be no doubt about that after Congress voted to extend that the Bush tax cuts, even though they will add $400 billion to the deficit over the next two years—and those crowing the loudest about the size of the deficit insisted that the one thing we must do is extend the tax cuts on income over $250,000. But if there were any doubt, consider that while the new Republican majority in the House has loudly promised to cut more than a $100 billion from the budget, their first order of business was to pass rules exempting their own legislative priorities from the pay-as-you-go rules put in place by the Democrats.
In other words, they’ve decided their own programs don't need to be paid for. If they continue to extend the Bush tax cuts past 2012—or create new tax breaks for businesses—they’re not going to worry about the impact that will have on the deficit. If they repeal health care reform, they’re not going to worry about the fact that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that doing so would add another $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. Democrats have say the Republicans of have exempted more than $1 trillion of spending and taxes over those 10 years from their own promises to reduce the deficit.
Whether or not that number is right, the Republicans promise to cut $100 billion from the budget—from the programs they don’t like anyway—only if you don’t count ways they’re planning increase spending their own priorities. And they have pledge to reduce the deficit only if you don’t take into account their plans to reduce government revenue. But you can’t just cross your fingers and say that certain deficit spending doesn’t count. That’s not balancing the budget. Although let’s be honest—no one is really trying to balance the budget.
Photo Credit: Matthew G. Bisanz