THE SECRET WEAPON IN THE BUDGET TALKS …
Soon the negotiators in Congress will sit down and try to agree on a federal budget, before we run into the next set of cutoffs and risk shutdowns and defaults again. The negotiating deadline is mid-December.
Leading the Republican side in the talks is Paul Ryan, the self-proclaimed deficit hawk from the House; on the other side, the liberals will be led by Patty Murray. Ryan insists we need to move toward a balanced budget, by cutting Social Security and Medicare. There are two problems with this.
First, Social Security and Medicare are not Ryan’s to dispose of. It’s not his money, or the government’s. It’s ours. Take a good look at your paycheck: the deductions for those two programs are right there. You already paid for your Social Security and Medicare, and you have every right to expect it will be there for you when you retire.
Which brings me to the second point. Astoundingly, everyone has lost sight of the fact that the real drivers of the deficit, the legitimate targets for cuts, are conservative policies. It is the right wing that has insisted on policies that have blown up the deficit.
So all Patty Murray needs to do, is push Ryan into a corner. Force him to choose between what he says he wants, cutting the deficit, and what he really wants, to help his conservative allies.
“So, Mister Ryan, are your conservative buddies willing to give up the subsidies and tax breaks the oil companies get? Estimates range from 5 to 50 billion dollars a year, but we’ll be conservative and call it 10 billion saved.
“So, Mister Ryan, are your conservative pals willing to enact policies to fight climate change? The Wall Street Journal, hardly a bastion of radicalism, says Eastern Asia alone will pay 23 billion a year for not preparing for climate change. Let’s assume our bill would be about the same.
“So, Mister Ryan, are your conservative friends willing to change course on health care, stop fighting Obamacare, and go beyond that to a single-payer plan? That saves us 100 billion a year.
"So, Mister Ryan, can your tobacco buddies like McConnell and Paul and Alexander let go of tobacco? If we ban tobacco, we save 100 billion a year in health care costs.
“So, Mister Ryan, can your conservative pals let go of the tax issue, and put the tax rates for rich back up where they were when the economy was booming? There’s perhaps 50 billion a year, depending on how high we go.
"So, Mister Ryan, are your conservative friends willing to fix Bush’s mess on Medicare Part D so that drug prices can be negotiated? 50 billion a year.
“So, Mister Ryan, are all those southern Senators willing to reform Pentagon procurement, even if it hurts some of their pork-addicted congressional districts? The GAO says the cost overruns alone are 35 billion, so when you add the stuff the Pentagon is forced to buy even when they don’t need it, it’s something like 40 billion.
"Mister Ryan, add up all these conservative policies, and then revoke them, and we save 373 billion a year. Then add the benefits of putting all this money back into the economy, and the resulting reductions in interest payments, and we’re up to at least 400 billion annually. Bush’s last budget year gave us a deficit of almost two trillion dollars; Obama, even while paying off all of Bush’s unfunded projects such as the wars and Medicare, got the deficit down to 750 billion. Get rid of those conservative policies, and we’re halfway to a balanced budget! And if your buddies like Boehner and McConnell can stop blocking all efforts to create jobs, the resulting tax revenue will cut the deficit even more! So…there ya go! Sign the deal and we can send it to McConnell and go get lunch!”