The House GOP is set to unveil their budget proposal this week, which, as Rep. Paul Ryan indicated on Fox News Sunday, plans to balance the budget in ten years. On CNN Monday morning, Rep. Jason Chaffetz was also looking to get out in front of some of the inevitable criticisms that will come from the left (h/t NRO):
Chaffetz: I do believe that there is common ground in getting rid of a lot of these loopholes, I really do. But we want to broaden the base, and lower the rate. We fundamentally don’t believe that we’re just one good tax increase away from prosperity in this country. … I think the fundamental question for the Democrats, what I have for the president and Chuck Schumer and others, is, should we at some point balance our budget? And if you’re going to do so, how are you going to do that? Because, at least we’re putting something on paper and introducing it, the Democrats haven’t done that in the Senate now for four years. …
Bonnie Fuller: Who says that we have to balance the budget? Lots of economists say that we don’t, that this is a complete and utter waste of time, that it’s much better to get the economy moving so that more people are employed, you bring in more revenues, instead of trying to cut, cut cut. And besides, even talking about households, how many household today have balanced budgets? Most of us carry debt, we’ve got to send our children to college, we as families have to make investments in our future. Why would you be spending all this time obsessing about trying to balance the budget. And by the way, you lost the election…
Chaffetz: I actually won, that’s why I’m sitting here. … You’re making the case that scares the living daylights out of me. Because, continuing to spend in perpetuity, without any regard for our future and our finances, and putting this all on the backs of kids, at some point, somebody’s going to have to pay the $16 trillion. You just can’t spend into infinity without eventually, sometime, balancing your books.
Ah yes, the old “even trying to balance the budget is just a dumb idea anyway” line of attack. The biggest problem with applying the “even households don’t have balanced budgets” argument is that families cannot take out student loans or housing loans or what have you without explicit plans for paying those loans back. All of those agreements come with payment plans, interest accrual, and finite deadlines, and the consequences of going delinquent largely mean that you are going to have a heck of a lot of trouble acquiring a loan the next time you need one because you have no credibility. Sure, families make “investments” in their future — with the complete understanding that they’re on a timeline for repayment. As Chaffetz rejoins, all of this spending into infinity cannot go on forever — it really is just that simple.
It is not an accident that President Obama’s favorite budget-related term is “balanced approach.” The term balance is deliberately meant to come across as a soothing and reassuring implication that everything will equal out in the end, but all he really means is including even more revenue increases in the ostensible attempt to bring down our deficits. Bringing down our deficits, and balancing our budget, are definitively not the same thing.
Update: Exhibit A.