One of the Democrats’ first moves Friday after taking control of the US House was to pass a package of rules and ethics reforms aimed at addressing political corruption and reigning in our massive federal deficit. All six Democratic members of Washington’s delegation voted for the rule changes. All three WA Republicans voted against them.
And one of the highest profile changes was to re-adopt a stringent “pay-as-you-go” (PAYGO) budget rule that requires lawmakers to offset any new spending on entitlements, or any new tax cuts. Such a rule was in place during much of the 1990’s, during a time when President Clinton led the nation from record deficits to record surpluses, and actually started paying off the national debt. Deficits later exploded and the national debt mushroomed to $8.6 trillion under President Bush after Republicans suspended PAYGO.
Rep. Dave Reichert, who campaigns as a “fiscal conservative,” vehemently opposes PAYGO:
“I will vote against it because it raises taxes,” Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., said in a telephone interview. “The easiest fix is always to raise taxes.”
Uh-huh. If you ask me, the politically easy move has always been to cut taxes, which is how we got into this mess in the first place. Republicans are concerned that the new rule will make it harder to renew Bush’s tax cuts, most of which expire in 2010… and most of which disproportionately benefit the wealthy. Given the choice between true fiscal conservatism and paying back the GOP’s corporatist patrons, Reichert has clearly chosen the latter. And who pays for this choice? Rep. Brian Baird explains:
“We want to get the budget under control and we need to look at entitlements and revenue,” he said. “Does Dave Reichert really want to sit down with my 22-month-old boys or his grandkids and tell them they owe $8.6 billion?”
Of course, that’s what it comes down to — somebody’s got to pay for this generation’s deficit spending, and if it’s up to Reichert and the Republicans, the cost is going to fall on the shoulders of the next generation.
We’re not talking about discretionary spending. We’re not talking about investments in infrastructure or education or R&D. We’re not talking about national defense. We’re not even talking about the automatic cost-of-living increases mandated in programs like Medicare and Social Security.
PAYGO only applies to new entitlement spending (like when Medicare’s prescription drug program was implemented) and new tax cuts. Under PAYGO any new tax cut or entitlement would have to be offset by raising taxes or cutting spending elsewhere. It’s Balanced Budgeting 101. You know… common sense.
Yet Reichert apparently thinks we can still balance the budget using, you know… magic.
“But the way to reduce the deficit is to rein in federal spending and cut taxes, which has proven to increase revenues,” Reichert said.
Yeah, just like it was proven under Ronald Reagan and George Bush II — the two administrations that oversaw the largest expansions in the national debt in US history. That’s supply-side economics, or as Bush I famously called it during his 1980 presidential campaign, “Voodoo Economics.”
Reichert claims to be a moderate. He claims to be fiscally responsible. But when push comes to shove he unblinkingly repeats the Republican mantra and votes to protect tax cuts at all costs.
Hmm. I’d love to see where his buddies on the Seattle Times editorial board fall on PAYGO?