Budgetology: Balancing Act

| March 20 2013

Budgetology: Balancing Act

Has the word “balance” lost all meaning in Washington?  For anyone following the debate on budgets, it has.  The White House says a “balanced approach” must include entitlement reform.  The Senate wants a “balanced approach” that leaves entitlements alone.  Neither one actually balances the budget, but Republican and Democratic plans from the House promise just that. Just another example of confusing rhetoric intended to obscure business as usual.

POLITICO: “Balance Is The Great Overworked Word In This Debate — To The Point That It May Have Lost All Meaning.” (David Rogers, “Shutdown, budget bills on the floor this week,” POLITICO, 3/17/13) 

 

WHAT DOES “BALANCE” MEAN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE?

UPI: “Obama Urges ‘Balanced Approach’ On Debt.” “President Barack Obama Saturday renewed his call for a “balanced approach” to reducing the federal debt.” (“Obama urges ‘balanced approach’ on debt,” UPI, 2/16/13)

But “Balanced Approach” Doesn’t Mean A “Balanced Budget.” “President Obama is unlikely to balance the budget when he releases his budget blueprint next month. …  [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney said Obama’s goal was to produce a budget that would provide economic growth and create jobs. ‘It should not be deficit reduction for deficit reduction’s sake. The goal here should be economic growth and job creation,’ Carney said.” (Justin Sink, “Obama to seek ‘fiscally sustainable path,’ not balanced budget,” The Hill, 3/11/13)

“President Obama Won’t Balance Budget ‘Just for the Sake of Balance’” “My goal is not to chase– a balanced budget just for the sake of balance.  My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we’re gonna be bringin’ in more revenue. …” (President Obama, “President Obama Won’t Balance Budget ‘Just for the Sake of Balance’,” ABC News, 3/12/13)

It Does Mean Tax Increases And Entitlement Reform:

Press Secretary Jay Carney: “It is the president’s position that in pursuit of balanced deficit reduction that includes both entitlement reforms and revenues from tax reform…” (Press Secretary Jay Carney, Press Briefing3/11/13)

White House Rejects Idea They Aren’t Serious About Entitlement Reform. “White House officials rejected Republican suggestions that Mr. Obama has not been serious enough about tackling the growth of entitlement spending. ‘He [Obama] is committed, every time he talks about this, to a balanced approach that includes both, you know, revenues, spending cuts and savings through entitlement reforms,’ said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.” (Peter Baker, “Obama Tilts Tax Debate Away From Spending Cuts,” New York Times, 11/29/12)

 

WHAT DOES “BALANCE” MEAN FOR THE SENATE?

“Ms. Murray Is Planning To Produce A Budget Resolution That Will Include Both Tax Increases And Spending Cuts, But She Has Not Said When If Ever She Aims To Balance The Budget.” (Janet Hook, “Sen. Murray Girds for Budget Battle,” The Wall Street Journal, 3/1/13)

Like The White House, A “Balanced Approach” Doesn’t Mean A “Balanced Budget.” “[Senate Democrats] have signaled that their budget will do more to raise revenue than to cut spending and that it will not end deficits. In a memo, Murray adumbrated the justification for this by noting that Congress has already approved $1.8 trillion in spending cuts since 2010 but only $600 billion in new taxes.” (Erik Wasson and Bernie Becker, “Senate Dems strain to get budget over finish line by Easter recess,” The Hill, 3/11/13)

And It Won’t Reform Entitlements: “What the proposal [Sen. Patty Murray’s budget] is unlikely to do is lay out a detailed blueprint for cutting the federal health entitlement programs that drive the country’s long-term deficit. … Two recent budget memos, circulated to Senate Democrats, emphasized the need for revenue and barely mentioned the health programs.” (Nancy Cook and Margot Sanger-Katz, “Why the Senate Democrats’ Budget will be Vague,” National Journal, 3/12/13)

Instead, Balance Means Higher Taxes And Higher Spending. “Murray’s plan … relies on higher taxes and higher spending, with no serious effort to deal with our debt and deficit.” (Ed Rogers, “The Insiders: A big week for the budget,” The Washington Post, 3/11/13)

 

BUT IF THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS BALANCE WITH ENTITLEMENT REFORM, HOW CAN THEY SUPPORT THE SENATE PLAN?

White House Praises Senate Plan, Calls It “Balanced.” “White House press secretary Jay Carney praised the budget proposed by Senate Democrats on Wednesday, saying it represents a balanced approach to deficit reduction that won’t place an undue burden on the middle class.” (Donavan Slack, “White House endorses Senate Dem budget,” POLITICO, 3/13/13) 

 

HOUSE PLANS BALANCE THE BUDGET, BUT NOT WITH A “BALANCED APPROACH”

The GOP Plan:

“Rep. Paul Ryan Of Janesville Said Sunday His New Budget Will Promote The Repeal Of Obamacare And Balance The Federal Budget In 10 Years.” (Gitte Laasby, “Paul Ryan says his proposal will balance budget in a decade,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/11/13)

Reuters: “Paul Ryan Budget To Balance By 2023 With Modestly Deeper Cuts” (David Lawder, “Paul Ryan Budget To Balance By 2023 With Modestly Deeper Cuts,” Reuters,3/11/13)

No New Revenue Increases. “The conservative budget blueprint will retain $620 billion in tax increases on the wealthiest taxpayers that were approved in the January 1 deal to resolve the “fiscal cliff,” Budget Committee aides said. But in keeping with a critical Republican demand, it will not include any further revenue increases.” (David Lawder, “Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan Sees Balance By 2023, Modestly Deeper Cuts,” Reuters, 3/6/13)

The Democrat Plan:

“Van Hollen: House Democratic Plan Will Balance Budget By About 2040.” “The House Budget Committee’s top Democrat said Sunday that House Democrats’ budget proposal will balance the budget by around 2040. Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s remarks came on the heels of mounting Republican criticism that Democrats have not been serious about balancing the budget.” (Sean Sullivan, “Van Hollen: House Democratic plan will balance budget by about 2040,” The Washington Post, 3/17/13)

House Democrat Budget Has More Taxes, Stimulus Than Senate Budget: “House Democrats on Monday unveiled a 2014 budget proposal that includes $1.2 trillion in new taxes and $200 billion in stimulus spending. That’s about twice the level of stimulus spening that what was in the Senate Democratic budget, which included $975 million in new taxes.” (Erik Wasson, “House Dem budget includes $1.2T in taxes, $200B new stimulus,” The Hill, 3/18.13)

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