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Let the Budget Cutting Begin

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had an article by Dave Wessel that begins with a quote by “soon to be House speaker” John Boehner who “promised” Americans:

"a new approach that hasn't been tried before in Washington—by either party. It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it."

Wessel then goes on to throw cold water on the promises of the campaign, writing:

“But as Republican spending cutters move from wooing voters to legislating, they confront two realities: Cutting government spending in general is popular; specific, substantial spending cuts are not. And bringing down the deficit by spending cuts alone, particularly cuts in annually appropriated domestic spending, is, well, arithmetically challenging.

“Republicans are not proposing British-style fiscal austerity. Republicans say they won't raise taxes now and will eliminate "the constant threat of new taxes." The new Conservative-led coalition in Britain is raising taxes by $1 for every $3 in spending cuts, including a 2.5-percentage-point increase in the value-added tax to 20% and higher capital-gains tax rates. The Brits are taking aim at government benefits for the middle class, an explosive notion Republicans avoided during the campaign.”

Wessel says that “Republicans, eager to earn the trust of those who voted for them, are likely to pursue spending cuts regardless of political and economic risks,” but adds that “cutting unpopular spending . . .  won't suffice if they're serious about the deficit.”

We growled last week that two unlikely allies -- the National Taxpayers Union and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) -- managed to identify over $600 billion of potential spending cuts. In addition, Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute includes a list of several groups that have identified potential spending cuts, and writes at their “Downsizing the Federal Government” project:

“We will not get federal spending under control unless we begin a national discussion about specific cuts. And we won’t get that discussion unless enough members of Congress start pushing for specific cuts. Ronald Reagan was able to make substantial cuts to state grants in the early 1980s because policymakers had discussed such reforms throughout the 1970s. Republicans in the mid-1990s were able to reform welfare because of the extended debate on the issue that preceded it.

“The electorate wants spending cuts, and they will support the policymakers who take the lead on cuts if they are pursued in a forthright and serious-minded manner.”

In today's “weekly wastebasket,” Taxpayers for Common Sense says the promises in the Republicans’ "Pledge to America" were “too limited.”  They close their weekly missive saying:

“The only way to get our budget back on track is to push and pull in every direction. It’s gut check time for the commission. And then it is time for the 112th Congress to put the budget where their mouth is.”

Let the discussions get started. and the pushing and pulling get begin! Perhaps Arlington taxpayers will also demand discussion about spending by the Arlington County Board and the Arlington Public Schools.

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