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Republicans Want to Plug Budget Hole With Piece of Lint, Air

Brian Beutler has done some solid work today pinning down what the preferred GOP budget would actually cut to hit its spending targets. Under what has been laid out in the Pledge to America, Republicans would cut $5 billion dollars to Pell Grants to allow low-income students to afford college; $6 billion to the National Institutes of Health and hundreds of millions to the Centers for Disease Control; $2 billion to state and local law enforcement; potentially $13 billion for the Departments of Transportation and HUD; and even funds for tax collectors, which could result in substantially less revenue for the US government.

Needless to say, Republicans would rather not talk about these kinds of deep cuts – and those just scratch the surface, if the government decides to bring spending back to pre-recession levels. So instead, Republicans try to mask this by talking about cuts they consider friendlier to the populace. They don’t want to talk about military spending, Medicare or Social Security, which is the majority of the budget. So they pull out these little slivers. Here’s a taste from “Young Guns” Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy.

“Anybody who rides a first class ticket on Amtrak…when you buy that sleeper car, the tax payer spends $364 subsidizing your ticket, so you can have your bed drawn down,” McCarthy said, proposing to save much less than one percent of the federal budget by skimping on high-end train service.

Additionally, the government could save a similarly tiny amount by cutting federal employee benefits. “Do you realize that people that represent a union and work for the federal government, they go out on their time to work for the union. The federal government pays for that union work. That’s another $120 million.”

And foreign aid. “Do you realize that we give economic aid– not humanitary [sic] aid– to countries that have $50 billion or more in debt they owe for us? Meaning that we’re borrowing 40 cents out of the dollar from china to give them the millions of dollars.

And child nutrition. “Why do you have 87 different programs for child nutrition?” McCarthy asked rhetorically. “Couldn’t you merge those together and get some savings.”

Congratulations, Young Guns, you just saved maybe .0002% of the federal budget! (actually, I was being unfair, he’s up to 0.45%. Good for him!)

These are the same people who want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the highest income brackets, costing $700 billion dollars over the next decade.

It’s hard to write this consistently over and over again, but just suffice to say that Republicans could give a damn about the budget.

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David Dayen

David Dayen