It's not true that Republicans have no plan.
They don't make it explicit, of course. They won't actually explain their plan to the American people. Nor is it consistent with their criticism of the Democratic majority for running up the deficit. But they do have a plan, of sorts.
On Sunday, host David Gregory of Meet The Press (transcript here) tried, valiantly, to get House Minority
MR. GREGORY: Leader Boehner, he puts it right to you.
REP. BOEHNER: The only way we're going to get our economy going again and solve our budget problems is to get the economy moving, get more people back to work where they can care for their own families and begin to expand the tax rolls to bring more revenue to the federal government. And what we have to do is we have to get our arms around the spending spree that's going on in Washington, D.C.
MR. GREGORY: But Leader Boehner...
REP. BOEHNER: That's the only way we solve the budget problems.
MR. GREGORY: ...I'm sorry, you're--that--you're not, you're not being responsive to a specific point, which is how can you be for cutting the deficit and also cutting taxes, as well, when they're not paid for?
REP. BOEHNER: Listen, you can't raise taxes in the middle of a weak economy without risking the double-dip in this recession. President Obama's favorite Republican economist, Mark Zandi, came out several weeks ago and made it clear that raising taxes at this point in, in the economy is a very bad idea.
MR. GREGORY: But do you agree that tax cuts cannot be paid for...
REP. BOEHNER: You cannot balance the budget without a...
MR. GREGORY: But tax cuts are not paid for, is that correct?
REP. BOEHNER: I am not for raising taxes on the American people in a soft economy.
MR. GREGORY: That's not the question, Leader Boehner. The question...
REP. BOEHNER: And the people that the president wants to tax...
MR. GREGORY: ...is, are tax cuts paid for or not?
REP. BOEHNER: Listen, what you're trying to do is get into this Washington game and their funny accounting over there. You cannot get the economy going again by raising taxes on those people who we expect to create jobs in America and to get the economy going again. If we want to solve the budget problem, we've got to have a healthy economy and we have to get our arms around the runaway spending that's going on in Washington, D.C.
MR. GREGORY: I just want to clarify this. I mean, if you--I'm relying on what Chairman Greenspan said. Maybe--if you're accusing him of funny Washington games. He says that tax cuts that aren't paid for are not--they are not cutting the deficit, that they are not actually paid for, it's borrowed money. And so do you believe tax cuts pay for themselves or not?
REP. BOEHNER: I do believe that we've got to get more money in the hands of small businesses and American families to get our economy going again, and the only way to get that economy going again is to do that and to get our arms around the spending.
Then he gave up, moving onto Social Security. Gregory had a second chance, this time with Representaive Mike Pence (a little slicker, arguably a little more dishonest), also from Ohio:
MR. GREGORY: Well, we're going to get to Todd's piece, but Congressman Pence, I mean, this is the tension that I got out with Leader Bennett--Boehner. Republicans want more tax cuts. It seems to me they acknowledge that they are not paid for, and yet, at the same time, they want tax cuts, but they're so worried about the deficit. How do you resolve that tension?
REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): Well, I think the, the way you resolve it is you focus on jobs. I got to tell you, when I'm home in Muncie, Indiana, people are asking the question, "Where are the jobs?" I mean, we have more than 14 million Americans unemployed. National unemployment is 9.5 percent. Clearly, the economic policies of this administration, however well intentioned, have failed. And we've got to do something different. And it's not, it's not just about preserving the tax relief of 2001 and 2003, David. It is, it is also about beginning to embrace the kind of spending discipline and reform that will...
MR. GREGORY: But, Congressman, you're asking Americans to...
REP. PENCE: ...that will restore confidence to markets.
MR. GREGORY: ...to believe the Republicans will have spending discipline when you're saying extend the tax cuts that aren't paid for and cut the deficit. How is that a consistent, credible message?
REP. PENCE: Well, I understand the credibility problem, David. You know that during the first six years of this decade, I spent most of my time fighting against runaway spending under Republicans. I opposed No Child Left Behind, I opposed the Medicare prescription drug bill, I opposed the Wall Street bailout. What the American people are starting to see is that Republican, Republicans on Capitol Hill get it and the Democrats, from the White House to Capitol Hill, just don't get. You just heard Carol Browner here on the show say that they're, they're intending, I think she said "possibly" to use the lame duck session to pass a national energy tax. I mean, that, that is, that is outrageous. What the American people know is necessary to get this economy moving again is get federal spending under control and preserve and promote the kind of policies and taxes that'll, that'll create jobs.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But I just want to be clear. So if you want more tax cuts, you would be very specific in saying how they'd be offset with spending cuts, as well, since they will not be paid for. You acknowledge tax cuts being extended cannot be paid for, it would be borrowed money.
REP. PENCE: Well, no. I, I, I don't acknowledge that. I mean, the reality is that I think it's apples and oranges. It's something that John Boehner was talking to you about. Here in Washington, D.C., they, they talk about tax cuts the same way they talk about spending increases as though the government owned all of the money. They say, "Are they paid for?" Well, I think, I think deciding on a government spending increase is very different on whether or not we allow the American people to keep more of their hard-earned tax dollars. But, as John Boehner just said, the most important thing right now is to get this economy moving again, to create jobs, and to get federal spending under control.
Apparently not wanting to expose as hypocrites two Republicans, Gregory went onto to another roundtable participant, Harold Ford, who mildly disagreed with Pence, then changed the topic. Actually, not bad for
Still, Boehner, who presumably would become Speaker if the GOP takes over the House, and Pence, who might challenge him, both avoided answering the question. (Nor were they reminded that Democrats are planning to block the tax cuts for the middle class to expire.) They couldn't respond honestly, of course, because the tax cuts are not paid for, will reduce revenue, and would send the deficit spiraling. They could quote then-Vice President Dick Cheney claiming "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Or they could inject themselves with truth serum and note that deficits are a problem but in a severe economic downturn a necessary evil. But either way, what would they tell Tea Party supporters?
It's convenient and easy for the GOP now to call for "getting our arms around the runaway spending," "get federal spending under control," and ending the stimulus. One-third of the stimulus (totalling $787 billion) was allocated for tax cuts- and all but $55 billion of the $288 billion has been spent. The bulk of the money not yet paid out ($495 billion) was dedicated to job creation ("contracts, grants, loans") and to state and local governments ("entitlements") struggling to meet Medicaid and other payments- and to keep their own taxes from exploding.
For those keeping track at home, that would mean that tax cuts account for 45% of the funds thus far paid out as part of the stimulus package that Republicans incessantly tell us has failed. Funny, they don't seem to mention that.