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Duane Graham, of the excellent The Erstwhile Conservative blog, debates whether or not Rep. “Ozark” Billy Long (R-7) deserves praise for joining fellow Missourian Jo Ann Emerson (R-8) and 40 other House Republicans in signing a bipartisan letter to the deficit Supercommittee which, among other things, suggests that revenues must be on the table as the group works its deficit-busting hocus-pocus. Graham concludes that no, indeed, Long does not deserve praise.

Remembering Long’s almost comical eagerness to let the United States government default last July during the debt-ceililng crisis, Graham notes that:

If someone who had been holding a hostage suddenly decided to let him go, would we be obliged to reward the hostage taker by giving him or her a medal of honor?  Republicans, including most of the signers of the letter, have been serial economic hostage takers. The fact that a few of them may have put the gun down and decided to try another way does not merit uncritical admiration.

He adds:

Then, I noticed that the letter did not include any specific proposals or any definition of what “revenues” meant, in terms of raising them….

Indeed, the devil is always in the details, and in that regard the brief letter is remarkably skimpy, simply declaring that:

To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table. …

My question, though, is whether or not this detail-dwelling devil lets Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-5), who joined 60 other House Democrats in signing the same letter, off the hook. No actual cuts were specified, but Democrats who signed this letter have essentially signified a willingness to permit cuts to the pillars of the social safety net, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, it’s very hard to see how the vagueness of this letter gives Cleaver any wiggle room. We already know that the Democrats on the Super-Committee have been listing dangerously rightward, and it doesn’t seem like they need more encouragement to give up the game – they’re doing a good enough job already. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities characterizes their leaked plan as a near capitulation:

The Democratic plan contains substantially smaller revenue increases than those bipartisan proposals while, for example, containing significantly deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than the Bowles-Simpson plan. The Democratic plan features a substantially higher ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases than any of the bipartisan plans.

This little bipartisan epistolary exercise has, as well, helped revive the false narrative about a non-existent deficit crisis when we were just beginning to succeed in shifting the emphasis to job-creation instead of more job-killing budget cuts. While vague about specifics, the letter reinforces the deficit crisis meme so wholeheartedly it even demands bigger deficit reductions than the committees’ $1.2 trillion mandate:

… In addition, we know from other bipartisan frameworks that a target of some $4 trillion in deficit reduction is necessary to stabilize our debt as a share of the economy and assure America’s fiscal well-being.

So there we have it. Is Cleaver demanding even more job-killing budget cuts and signaling a willingness to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and elderly? Or is he just trying to be a good, bipartisan fellow and go along to get something, anything, done. And isn’t the latter just as bad as the former?