In the opening months of 2011, Republican budget-cutters had to play on a small field. Instead of being able to tackle the structural issues of the massive deficit while planning the FY2012 budget, the House instead had to finish the work left undone by Democrats for the current fiscal year. Under pressure to keep defense and security spending in place, the entire spending pool available to cut amounted to less than $300 billion when the first continuing resolution expired in March, and the GOP forced Democrats to eventually cut almost $50 billion from that discretionary spending in the end.
Boehner writes in an op-ed for USA Today that the next fight will be an order of magnitude larger:
The budget by Chairman Ryan has set the bar. If the president is willing to follow our lead and offer serious proposals that address the drivers of our debt and the barriers that are holding back our economy, we’ll welcome it, and we’re open to hearing them. But in order to be credible, the White House plan must preserve and protect programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and set us on a path to pay down the national debt.
So far, the president has only outlined an irresponsible budget that would impose a job-crushing $1.5 trillion tax hike, add $9.1 trillion to the debt over the next decade, and do nothing to address our autopilot spending. Instead, it locks in place the spending binge that has increased every child’s share of the national debt to $45,000.
Rather than removing uncertainty for private-sector job creators and bolstering confidence in our economy, the president’s budget is likely to deepen anxiety among families, small business operators and investors — the people who really create jobs in America.
President Obama also wants a debt limit increase, but says spending cuts and budget reforms shouldn’t be attached to it. Americans will not stand for that. We must follow their will.
Actually, Obama plans to offer a new plan on entitlements later today, which we’ll cover in a separate post.
Some Tea Party activists are unhappy that Boehner’s deal didn’t already deal in trillions, but there simply weren’t trillions to cut in FY2011’s budget — only the remainder of the discretionary spending left after five months of temporary spending authorizations. Entitlement programs spend on auto-pilot as they are statutory obligations passed into law; the published federal budget produced by Congress only estimates those costs, while authorizing discretionary spending. Statutory changes to law have to be proposed and adopted separately from budgets by rule and by practicality. Ryan and the GOP will now have the opportunity to start proposing and pushing the kind of statutory changes necessary to change the direction of the auto-pilot that will reduce the entitlement spending for the future, starting in FY2012 if Congress can pass something that Barack Obama will sign.
Republicans still need to keep pressure on discretionary spending. They managed to reduce non-security discretionary spending by over 10% for the FY2011 year from Obama’s budget request ($49 billion from $450 billion), but that comes after three years of expanding discretionary spending by almost 20%. Discretionary spending is merely the appetizer to the deficit problem, though; even with Defense and Homeland Security, it totaled $1.3 trillion in Obama’s budget proposal. WE could have cut all of it and we’d still be $300-400 billion in the red.
Boehner’s right that the next fight will be on entitlements. It’s really the only fight that matters now that FY2011 has been put to bed.