With the clock ticking on the Nov. 23 deadline for the 12-member bipartisan-staffed Supercommitte to come up with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years, partisan politics has once again reared its ugly head. Commissioned with saving the country from a fiscal calamity of epic proportions, deliberations have stalled along party lines, with Republicans fixated on their no tax pledge. Supercommittee co-chair Republican Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling dug in his heels. Unless Democrats agree to structural changes with entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security the negotiations will fail according to Hensarling. “But if this were easy, the president of the United States [Barack Obama] and the speaker of the House [John Boehner] would have gotten it done themselves,” said Hensarling, showing the kind of rancorous partisanship warranting his resignation.
Hensarling offers nothing constructive by blaming Obama or Boehner, whose inability to get anything done has to do with destructive partisanship, threatening to down the country. Given high unemployment rates and sluggish growth, threatening to eviscerate important entitlement programs that protect both Republicans and Democrats seems outrageous. Most economists, including Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, believe current tax rates are too low to sustain current levels of government services without creating massive federal budget deficits, threatening another downgrade to U.S. credit. All agree that deficit spending should come down. Where they disagree is how revenues should be generated. Republicans seek further reductions in entitlement programs, where Democrats seek more revenue by increasing tax rates on the richest Americans.
Billionaires, like Omaha, Nebraska-based investor Warren Buffett, have begged the government to raise their taxes. Republican zealots in Congress, sworn to GOP extremist Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge, have refused to consider raising tax rates on thee rich, despite knowing that current rates are unsustainable with the current high unemployment picture. Norquist and other no tax Republicans subscribe to a failed Supply-Side theory that insists lowering taxes stimulates jobs growth. Their no tax zealotry has clouded the judgment of Supercommittee Republicans. As the economy recovers, budgets deficit naturally shrink parallel with increased employment and tax revenues. Supercommittee Republicans breached their constitutional duties when they place Norquist’s no tax pledge over the U.S. economy. Responsible leadership involves meeting Democrats halfway.
If you listen to Henasrling and Supercommittee Republicans you’d conclude that Medicare and Social Security benefits only go to Democrats. “We want more revenues. We just want to raise it by growing the economy,” said Hensarling, refusing to see that his failed Supply-Side theory doesn’t, in fact, grow the economy. Marginal tax rates were cut under former President George W. Bush, resulting in the biggest recession and loss of jobs since the Great Depression. As long as Hensarling and his GOP Supercommittee friends insist on no new taxes, they harm their own constituents who stand to suffer if draconic cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey wants to generate $250 billion by eliminating tax deductions, pressuring Democrats to drop their plan to raise the top income bracket to 35% from its current 28%.
Everyone, including Democrats, have their own ideas how to stimulate the economy. It’s time for Supercommittee Republicans to admit they don’t really know whether slashing the nation’s entitlement programs will result in increased economic growth. Judging by past mistakes going back to the Reagan administration, slashing taxes only results in mushrooming federal budget deficits. Reagan promised a balanced budget campaigning in 1980 by 1983 but actually doubled former Jimmy Carter’s $60 billion budget deficit. “You absolutely ca do this in a way that will be pro-growth, that will generate more revenue that’s coming otherwise,” said Toomey, spewing the same twisted logic that drove deficits through the roof. Toomey and other Republicans on the Supercommittee know that there’s no assurance about stimulating the economy from cutting taxes.
Republicans have falsely blamed today’s budget deficits on Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs. They completely ignore the budget-busting expenditures for financing costly, but unnecessary, foreign wars. When you consider that Obama has finally decided to end the Iraq War and hopefully will do the same in Afhganistan, budget deficits should improve. “I want to tell you, we’re going to touch Medicare because there’s no way we can borrow more money five years from now to run Medicare the way it is today,” said GOP Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, threatening his constituents that depend on government-sponsored health care. Coburn and his GOP friends should think about restricting access to Medicare by his rich GOP friends currently using the system. Until both parties can agree on means testing for Social Security and Medicare, nothing will improve.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.