More on the Deficit Double-Standard
To say a few more words on the double-standards that afflict Democrats with regard to the deficit, take a look at how Bush passed his tax cuts. Since he didn't have 60 votes for the hefty package he wanted, he used the budget reconciliation process. This was, to observers, a surprise: the idea behind budget reconciliation was that it would make it easier for Congress to do the hard work of deficit reduction. As Kent Conrad told me, reconciliation "was designed solely for deficit reduction." The Senate parliamentarian, predictably, objected to the Bush administration's effort. He was fired and replaced with a parliamentarian that blessed the procedure.
Bush's 2001 tax cuts was the first time the budget reconciliation process had ever been used for a bill that increased the deficit. Ever. Democrats were appalled. When they retook the Congress, both the House and the Senate passed a rule barring reconciliation from being used for bills that increased the deficit.
The product, of course, is that Democrats can't use reconciliation for bills that increase the deficit. But it goes beyond even that: A number of powerful congressional Democrats really care about the deficit. So too do a number of powerful White House economic advisers. They've decided that balancing the bill in the 10-year window, as the House Democrats do, isn't sufficient. They want it balanced beyond the 10-year window, too.
It's all very responsible, and very good policy, but it means the Obama White House has committed itself to two incredibly stringent conditions the Bush White House avoided: finding sufficient revenues for their programs, and finding the kind of revenue that keeps pace with the spending in their programs over the long-term. That makes their job a lot harder.
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