“The Cut, Cap and Balance plan that the House will vote on next week is a solid plan for moving forward. Let’s get through that vote, and then we’ll make decisions about what will come after.”
— John Boehner, July 15, 2011
“Next week” is here.
Tomorrow, Republicans in the House of Representatives will vote on and pass HR 2560, The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011, the latest gimmick the GOP has concocted to keep its attack on the New Deal and the Great Society alive and well.
Now, no one seriously believes this bill will come within a Limbaugh butt cheek of passing. After all, the bill,
Requires the passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment before raising the nation’s debt limit.
As they say out here in the hinterlands, that aint gonna happen.
So, while the country is begging for something to be done about jobs, the House is taking up valuable legislating time with this nonsense. Why?
The conventional wisdom has it that the futile vote is designed to give hard-headed teapartiers in the House a political reach-around, to eventually soften them up so GOP leadership can push through the Mitch McConnell compromise on the debt ceiling increase. Republican leadership is hearing from the business community and Wall Street about the calamitous effects of defaulting, and they are listening.
But I believe there is more going on here than giving the Ozark Billy Long’s in the House a feel-good day in D.C. It is also about selling this dangerous elixir to the public in 2012.
The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act is barely dry behind the legislation ears. It was dreamed up in June of this year by the Republican Study Committee, which its website describes as:
…a group of over 175 House Republicans organized for the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives. The Republican Study Committee is dedicated to a limited and Constitutional role for the federal government, a strong national defense, the protection of individual and property rights, and the preservation of traditional family values.
In other words, the RSC is the voice of the Tea Party extremists in the House. Area members include, of course, Missouri Representatives Billy Long and Vicki Hartzler, as well as Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins and Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack.
The basis for the RSC’s adoption of the draconian Cut, Cap, and Balance Act seems to be the conviction that the public supports the idea. I extracted the following from a summary of the bill I found on the RSC’s website:
In an On Message, Inc. survey of 1,000 likely voters nationwide, large majorities support:
Cutting next year’s deficit in half through spending cuts. (Favored 69%-20%)
Capping federal spending to no more than 18% of GDP. (Favored 66%-17%)
A Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. (Favored 81%-13%)
The survey also found that Americans support a supermajority requirement to raise taxes (Favored 60%-30%).
Thus, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act was designed to and would essentially do all those things, were it to become law.
Now, the “survey” conducted by On Message, Inc –a campaign consultant firm that specializes in electing Tea Party Republicans—is what it is, whatever it is. But there can be no doubt that there is considerable angst among the hoi polloi regarding our debt situation. That’s understandable, given all that Republicans, using consultants like On Message, have done to scare the public.
And having sufficiently scared the public, conservative Republicans sense it is time to mount their final assault on Big Government, using, oddly enough, the public to justify and support its dirty work, a public that benefits in so many ways from the size of our government, as a lot of folks in Joplin have discovered recently.
It is true that the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act technically exempts Social Security and Medicare (but not Medicaid) from budget cuts—which is how the bill is being sold—but as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out,
The legislation would inexorably subject Social Security and Medicare to deep reductions.
The reason it would is that the massive cuts in other parts of the budget necessary to meet mandatory spending caps would cripple “key government functions.” Thus, politicians would have to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security to keep those other key government functions alive.
But more important for those most vulnerable in our society is this, from CBPP:
Adding to the extreme nature of the measure, the legislation also reverses a feature of every law of the past quarter-century that has contained a fiscal target or standard enforced by across-the-board cuts. Since the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law of 1985, all such laws have exempted the core basic assistance programs for the poorest Americans from such across-the-board cuts. “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” by contrast, specifically subjects all such programs to across-the-board cuts if its spending caps would be exceeded.
It is an ingenious scheme, the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act. It uses the considerable debt-angst Republicans have ginned up to accomplish something that conservatives have yearned for since November of 1980, when the radical Ronald Reagan was first elected.
The Act’s mandatory caps and the supermajority provision to prevent tax increases, especially on the wealthy, would essentially shrink government to a size small enough that Grover Norquist could indeed drown it, and the poor and the working class, in his bathtub.
And despite the fact the Act is doomed to fail this year, Republicans intend on using it as a bludgeon to pummel Democrats next year, as the GOP attempts once again to convince anxious Americans to vote against their own economic interests and elect representatives of the moneyed class.
More than anything, that’s what the vote tomorrow is about.