The headline above pertains to just about everyone in politics these days.
They all decry the budget deficit until it comes time to do something specific--that is, painful--to slash it.
Take the House Republicans, who released their "Pledge to America" on Thursday. They've been moaning and groaning about the Obama deficits. So what do they do? Call for permanently extending the Bush tax cuts--yes, for millionaires as well--which would cost hundreds of billions of dollars in red ink.
But they're the party of small government, right? Well, the pledge lacks specifics on spending cuts. Defense is off the table. Medicare and Social Security remain untouched. Those are the big-ticket items. Budget-cutters who avoid those areas simply aren't serious.
The GOP does call for a spending freeze on most government programs (not affecting the elderly or veterans or the military), saving an estimated $100 billion. That's great. The deficit this year will top $1.3 trillion.
Under the pledge, John Boehner's team would repeal Obamacare and replace it with...something else. Of course, the health-care law is supposed to save money in some ways, though that remains to be seen.
After going on a spending binge--justified, Obama says, by the financial calamity he inherited--the Democrats don't have a serious deficit-cutting plan, either. But the health-care law would slice into Medicare outlays, which is the only way to save real money. The Republicans don't like that.
And the tea party? The folks who say our swollen government is somehow flouting the Constitution? They, too, don't call for any cutbacks in Medicare or Social Security.
The pledge is a good starting point for debate, an effort to shed the Party of No label. But neither party wants to upset large numbers of Americans this close to an election.
The GOP document is not a big hit with many on the right, including Red State's Erick Erickson, who calls it a "ridiculous" bunch of "compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama...
"Yes, yes, it is full of mom tested, kid approved pablum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity. But like a diet full of sugar, it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high.
"It is dreck -- dreck with some stuff I like, but like Brussels sprouts in butter. I like the butter, not the Brussels sprouts. Overall, this grand illusion of an agenda that will never happen is best spoken of today and then never again as if it did not happen. It is best forgotten."
I have the firm impression that he doesn't like it.
David Frum wonders why Erickson is surprised:
"Here is the GOP cruising to a handsome election victory. Did you seriously imagine that they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly unpopular things?...
"Tea Party activists have been claiming all year that there exists in the United States a potential voting majority for radically more limited government.
"The Republican 'Pledge to America' declares: Sorry, we don't believe that. We shall cut spending where we can - reform the legislative process in important ways - and sever the federal guarantee for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans will redirect the federal government to a new path that is less expensive and intrusive than the status quo. But if you want promises of radical change? No. Too risky. We don't think the voters want that - not the smaller, older, richer, whiter electorate that votes in non-presidential years, much less the bigger, younger, poorer, less white electorate of presidential years. And even that smaller, older, richer, whiter electorate is highly wary of cuts to programs that benefit them, Medicare above all."
Andrew Sullivan sees it as a fraud:
"Given the gravity of the debt crisis, this is the most fiscally irresponsible document ever offered by the GOP. It is to the far right of Reagan, who raised taxes and eventually cut defense, and helped reform social security to ensure its longterm viability. It is an act of vandalism against the fiscal balance of the U.S., and in this global economic climate, a recipe for a double-dip recession and default. It is the opposite of responsible conservatism."
But the plan draws some applause from National Review, which compares it to Newt Gingrich's 1994 manifesto:
"The pledge is bolder. The Contract with America merely promised to hold votes on popular bills that had been bottled up during decades of Democratic control of the House. The pledge commits Republicans to working toward a broad conservative agenda that, if implemented, would make the federal government significantly smaller, Congress more accountable, and America more prosperous....
"The pledgemakers note that federal spending has grown too much 'over the last decade': There is no pretense that this problem began with President Obama, or even Speaker Pelosi....
"There are, of course, things we would prefer the Republicans to do differently. In some areas the pledge includes misguided policies, in others the Republicans could have been bolder, and in still others we need more details to evaluate it."
The plan, not surprisingly, draws hoots of derision on the left, starting with Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly:
"It's tempting to think House Republicans deserve at least some credit for making the effort. After all, the GOP hasn't even tried to craft a policy agenda in many years. The point of the 'Pledge,' presumably, is to help demonstrate that congressional Republicans aren't just the 'party of no'; this is a new GOP prepared to reclaim the mantle of 'party of ideas.'
"But that's precisely why the endeavor is such an embarrassing failure. The document combines old ideas, bad ideas, contradictory ideas, and discredited ideas. The Republican Party that lost control of Congress four years ago has had an abundance of time to craft a policy vision that offered credible, serious solutions. Instead, we're confronted with a document that can best be described as tired nonsense."
Budget-cutting makes for great rhetoric. But there's a reason that politicians go to extreme lengths to avoid doing it.
| September 23, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories: Latest stories, Top story | Tags: Pledge to America, Republicans, budget, budget cuts, deficit
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