Finally, A Budget

With $1 Trillion In Tax Hikes

Posted: March 20, 2013

For the first time in a political eternity — or, more precisely, four years — the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate, under constant prodding from Republicans, has offered a budget, or at least a passing resemblance to one.

It is to the Democrats’ eternal shame that it’s taken them this long to satisfy this basic legislative responsibility.
This budget, though, does precious little to mitigate that shame.

So pedestrian, so vague, so gauzy is this alleged spending blueprint, unveiled Wednesday, that even The Washington Post has labeled it “complacent,” a reflection of “unsustainable” policy preferences. But somehow, in the fevered recesses of Budget Chairman Patty Murray’s brain, the plan — with its trillion-dollar tax increase, $100 billion “stimulus” outlay, and gimmicky spending reductions — comes off as “balanced” and “fair.”

The “balanced” — or portending budgetary balance — part strikes us as illusory, the product of wishful thinking. Or, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pungently stated, the proposal, which would actually increase net federal spending over a decade, is little more than a “left-wing manifesto masquerading as a budget.”

But then, what more might we reasonably expect from this bunch, particularly when President Obama has gone to great lengths to say “we don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s going to be in a sustainable place.” As if the current debt ratio to GDP of 75 percent, coupled with the prospect of more spending and no genuine entitlement reform emanating from Democratic precincts, is “sustainable”? For the record, the left-leaning Brookings Institution, in a recent study, described this situation as “tenuous.”

Anyhow, Ms. Murray maintains this budget, much like that offered by Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan a day earlier, will achieve balance over 10 years. The devil, though, is not in her statement, but in the blueprint’s details.

Like, for starters, that trillion-dollar tax hike, to be gleaned by closing loopholes and eliminating “wasteful spending” in the tax code. Offsetting these revenue increases, ostensibly, would be spending cuts of a rather dubious nature, including $242 billion in reduced interest payments (not usually accorded the distinction of “new savings”) as well as that old-chestnut gimmick of repetitively counting money saved from the military drawdown in Afghanistan as a new reduction.

Last but hardly least is Ms. Murray’s proposed eradication of the sequester spending cuts, which, notes The Hill, does little more than elevate the baseline for spending, thus accounting for that net increase in spending. Add that $100 billion in new “stimulus” expenditures and what we have is another dose of “same old, same old,” albeit in some measure of codified form as opposed to mere rhetoric.

Hence, the notion may be advanced that some solace should be taken in the fact that Senate Democrats are at least going through the budgetary motions. Gone, for the moment, is the party’s standard approach to spending negotiations famously expressed by former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who last year informed Mr. Ryan, “We’re not coming before you today to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem [deficit spending]. What we do know is, we don’t like yours.”

This time, they do have a plan of their own, or what passes for one. But their scathing indictments of Mr. Ryan continue unabated.

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