There is a “war on women,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, referring to Republican plans to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood during last week’s budget showdown.
Obviously when looking for things to cut out of federal spending in the name of reducing the deficit, both Republicans and Democrats will look first to defund the parts of big government that satisfy their constituencies the most. Democrat leader Pelosi has rightly noted that most Republicans are unwilling to cut defense spending, something that incurs far more debt than government funded women’s health services. Said Pelosi last year: “I think we have to subject every federal dollar to the very harshest scrutiny… If there is going to a spending freeze, it should be across the board. That is to say, we all want a strong national defense, and we want to fund it in an appropriate way… if we have to cut spending, we should subject every dollar to that same scrutiny.”
Predictably, many Republicans have characterized such sentiments by Democrats as a “war on the military” in the same way Democrats now say the Republicans are waging war on women, seniors, minorities, teachers, transsexuals, tarantulas, and so on. But Pelosi is essentially (if hypocritically) right—we do have to “subject every dollar to that same scrutiny” if we are going to substantively cut spending. Ostensibly, both sides tried to do this last week. Actually, neither side did a damn thing.
Facing a $1.5 trillion dollar deficit last week, the Democrats came up with $4 billion in cuts. The Republicans were able to take that measly number up to $38 billion, which was the final compromise on both sides, and has been hailed as a “Republican victory.” A headline ran at CNSNews.com over the weekend that the “Debt Jumped $54.1 Billion in 8 Days Preceding Boehner-Obama Deal to Cut $38.5 Billion for Rest of Year” which means the ballyhooed $38 billion in cuts was completely negated in the week before the budget battle. It should be noted that the entire national debt now stands at $14 trillion and counting. Republicans laughed at Democrats initial $4 billion cut proposal, and rightly so. But realistically, Republicans’ $38 billion compromise isn’t any better.
Logically, any effort to cut government spending necessarily requires reexamining, reassessing and restructuring what government does. Naturally, Democrats want government to do what Democrats have always loved government doing (welfare and domestic socialism) and Republicans want government to do what Republicans have always loved government doing (warfare and foreign socialism). When Republicans go after Democrat-adored spending, it becomes a “war on women” and other hyperbolic nonsense. When Democrats go after Republican adored-spending, it becomes a “war on the military,” and other hyperbolic nonsense.
There are those of us, a small minority, who still have the quaint notion that the federal government should only do what it has the authority to do via Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. We believe in private charity but not public dependency and proper defense but not policing the world. This is the “extreme” position, or so we are told. Then there is the dominant and more popular view that the government can basically do anything it likes and no matter how much it costs, so long as it is in the name of some greater “good,” which is always determined, without any constitutional restraint, by whichever party happens to be in control in Washington, DC during any given legislative year. This is the mainstream and sensible position, we are told.
But we seem to have reached a point in our politics where enough Americans are now willing to recognize the unsustainable insanity of the mainstream position. This was reflected not only by the success of so many Tea Party candidates during the midterm election, a trend that will likely continue in 2012, but the many polls that show that Americans from across the political spectrum now consider our debt crisis the greatest threat to national security. Despite this trend, most in both parties still seem wholly unwilling to address spending and the debt in any substantive way. And the “extreme” few, who are willing, can currently only be found in the Republican Party.
Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” plan has been touted by some conservatives as a step in the right direction. Ryan’s proposal to save $6 trillion over a decade sounds like a big cut. It’s not. According to Heartland Institute tax and budget policy analyst Steve Stanek: “Ryan’s plan is not cutting from anything that’s real. A 10-year budget is craziness. It just has too many variables.” Stanek also noted that Ryan’s plan wouldn’t actually reduce the debt because it simply decreases the rise in spending, which is not an actual cut. Under Ryan’s plan the debt would increase from $14 trillion to $23.1 trillion in ten years. Still, one liberal blogger Tweeted of the congressman’s ineffective plan: “Paul Ryan’s path to prosperity is paved with the bones of the poor and elderly.”
A critic of the lack of urgency in Ryan’s plan, Sen. Rand Paul has proposed $500 billion in cuts this year alone. Paul calls this a “modest” proposal that only addresses one third of a $1.5 trillion deficit, and says it is a mere “first step toward ending our fiscal crisis.” Paul was able to arrive at such a large, albeit still modest number, by including cuts that both Democrats and Republicans don’t like. Paul’s only co-sponsors have been Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, both of whom disagree with some of Paul’s defense cuts, but understand the need, as Pelosi once advised, to “subject every dollar to the same scrutiny.”