Monday, February 04, 2013

How Republicans plan to transform the President's budget into the Paul Ryan budget

Republicans in Congress still can't seem to realize that their Party did not win the Presidency in 2012.  And by that I mean they still do not understand and do not represent the expectations of the American people.

One example of this is HR 444 REQUIRE A PLAN Act that was discussed today in the House.

Parenthetically the Act also adds the insulting attack remark erroneously directed towards the President, that it can also be called the "Require Presidential Leadership and No Deficit Act."  My guess is that the Republicans see leadership as making strong cuts into social programs to hurt the Americans who can least afford it and who most depend on it.  This would follow right in step with the Ryan budget and Republicans misguided thinking that revenue is off the table in budget talks.

Mr. Price
The Act introduced by Republican Mr. PRICE of Georgia (for himself, Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin, Ms. JENKINS, and Mr. SESSIONS) requires that, "if the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget does not achieve balance in a fiscal year covered by such budget, the President shall submit a supplemental unified budget by April 1, 2013, which identifies a fiscal year in which balance is achieved, and for other purposes."

It goes on to require that the supplemental budget include budget information required by US code but also include the Republicans wish list of items.  These are (a) An estimate of the fiscal year in which the supplemental budget is not expected to result in a deficit; (b) a detailed description of additional policies needed to accomplish no deficit; and (c) detailed description of the differences between the President's FY 2014 budget and the FY2014 supplemental budget requested.

There is no constituional requirement for a President to offer a budget which will balance by some future date.  Since the 1920's there have only been about three occassions where a budget actually did balance.  However Republicans appeared to be confused about the President's intentions.  They made it seem that this was a simple request that would help them understand where the President stands on balancing the budget.  But what are they really trying to do?

The reason that the Republicans imply they are proposing this Act is because the President's actions during his first term have shown he is not a good financial stewart.  The Act's section on "Findings" indicates that the President can't keep to his promises and has caused the deficit to rise during his term.  It's almost as if the President has authority over financial and budgetary policy and total control of the money that he was charged to spend and spent it unwisely.  Oh wait, that is the job of the Congress!

So what are the Republicans really trying to do by placing this Act into consideration?  I think they have a somewhat sinister plan in mind indeed.

CBO estimates of deficit causes
First, they are trying to create an image in the eyes of Americans that removes themselves from any blame they may have for the country's financial condition.  They won't admit  that it was their Party's administration that got us into the financial situation we are in and largely responsible for the deficit.  The graph at the left is the Congressional Budget Office's estimates of the factors leading to the deficit.  One can see that the largest contributors to our present deficit are the wars and Bush era tax cuts.  But deficits were not that important to Republicans when their guy was President.

Republicans pretend to be the only Party concerned with future generations who will be responsible for the deficit's payback.  While he was Mitt Romney's running partner, Paul Ryan's first budget plan would not balance the budget for thirty years.  And that one was considered harmful to the poor in society and the economy because of the magnitude of its cuts to social programs while at the same time cutting taxes for the rich.  Recently Ryan has been tasked by John Boehner to write a budget that will be balanced within ten years. Without considering revenue increases (as the Republicans believe), Ryan's new budget would start hurting people immediately.

It seems to me that with HR 444 and the previously passed HR 325 that temporarily raises the debt limit with stipulations for "No Budget/No Pay", Republicans are trying to force the President into cutting the social safety net, voucher-izing medicare and medicaid and making changes to social security that would not benefit the American worker.  All of these were Romney-Ryan policies that Americans rejected when they ended Romney's political career in the last election.
Ryan's Budget paves the path to
increased Prosperity for the wealthy
Republicans are really putting the cart before the horse if they think that the President can create a supplemental unified budget without Congress first acting on modifying the tax code and closing loop holes. The President cannot know the impact that new revenue will have to paying down the deficit  until Congress acts on tax law.  So once again Congress needs to understand that tax revenue must be considered and they have a more urgent role in addressing that than the President has to give them a supplemental unified budget.

Fortunately some Democrats understand that Republicans are trying to force a budget that looks like the Ryan budget and have added amendments to the Act to counteract this intention.  Unfortunately none of them was allowed during the actual rules committee session.

Mr McGovern of Massachusetts, a member of the committee made it clear that the members were only made aware of HR 444 on Thursday and the act was not entered until Friday last week.  He felt that there was not enough time to enter amendments.  He also made the point that the rules committee did not have any meetings, markups or open discussion around the need for the act and requested that it was entered into open rules.  That was voted down.

Mr Connelly of Virginia had submitted an amendment that prohibits "additional solutions" in the unified supplemental budget to include conversion of Medicare into a voucher program. However that amendment was not allowed.

Mr. Deutch of Florida submitted an amendment that removes social security from the definition of "Unified Budget" however that amendment was not allowed.

Jackson Lee of Texas submitted two amendments.  One protects the safety net of the most vulnerable in society.  It was not allowed.  The other proposes ending the estate and tax provisions so the applicable exclusion amount is allowed to revert to $1 million and the tax rate is allowed to be 55%.  It was not allowed. 

Chris Van Hollen from Maryland submitted an amendment to replace the entire sequester for 2013 which would cause deep cuts to domestic priorities and defense with a savings from specific policies that reflect a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  He wants to protect the most vulnerable and asks people making over $1 million to contribute more.  He wants to eliminate agriculture direct payments and cut subsidies to large oil companies.  Because he was not present due to his father's death, his substitute for sequester was voted down.

An amendment was submitted by Mark Takano of California which makes changes to the "Findings" section of the act.  He wants clarification that Congress holds responsibility for passing budgets and appropriating funds.  A responsibility that some Republicans have attempted to side-step.  That one was allowed.

Four Republican amendments were approved.  All of them require additional work from the Presdient to present more detail in the supplemental unified budget.

President Obama
As the President has stated publicly, like the Republicans, he also understands that the deficit should be brought under control.  Actions taken since his administration started have reduced the Bush deficit each year and the CBO expects that the deficit will be below $800 Billion by the end of 2013.

But in the President's case, his concern is that deficit reduction be done in a balanced approach with revenue increases and program cuts that do not harm the economy, that do not hurt Americans and are done fairly.

The divergence in the President's policies and Republican policies are fairly obvious to middle class Americans.

That's why he won the election.

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