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If nothing else, the right-wing temper tantrum over Tuesday's "fiscal cliff" agreement is rich with irony. After all, the "crisis" was never really about deficit reduction (which the expiration of the Bush tax cuts would have handled quite nicely) but the very real danger of slashing the national debt too fast and thus triggering an economic downturn in 2013. More pathetic still, the GOP's ersatz deficit hawks on Capitol Hill, always more concerned with shredding the social safety net than stemming the flow of red ink, voted overwhelmingly for Paul Ryan's House Republican budget which would require $6 trillion more in debt ceiling increases over the next decade.

Of course, you'd never know that, given the Republican threats to once again hold the debt ceiling hostage unless President Obama agrees to draconian cuts to non-defense spending. While Senators Toomey, Graham and McCain have all warned they would trigger a U.S. default if steep entitlement cuts are not forthcoming, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole insisted that the looming sequestration and debt ceiling deadlines represent "Republican leverage." And as he has for months, House Speaker John Boehner explained what the ransom would cost:

"Any debt limit increase would require cuts and reforms of a greater amount."
Leave aside for the moment that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt (and signed 17 debt limit increases) and George W. Bush nearly doubled it again (while signing seven more). And forget for now that Boehner and his lieutenants Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all voted for the budget-busting Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription drug program that continue to fuel federal deficits. Less than a year ago, 228 GOP House members and 41 Republican Senators voted for the Ryan budget and its $6 trillion in new debt.

Even with his draconian budget blueprint that cuts Medicaid by a third, ends Medicare as we know it, adds 48 million people to the ranks of the uninsured and by 2050 would result in ending all non-defense discretionary spending, over the next decade the Ryan budget blessed by 98 percent of Congressional Republicans would unleash torrents of red ink from the U.S. Treasury. Ezra Klein explained how:

The Tax Policy Center looked into the revenue loss associated with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's plan to cut the tax code down to two rates of 10 percent and 25 percent. They estimate the changes would raise $31.1 trillion over 10 years, or 15.4 percent of GDP. That's $10 trillion less than the tax code would raise if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire, and $4.6 trillion less than it would raise if all of the Bush tax cuts were extended.

The Republican congressman says he'll "broaden the tax base to maintain revenue...consistent with historical norms of 18 to 19 percent." So let's say Ryan needs to find close-enough deductions and loopholes to hit 18.5 percent of GDP. That means he'd need to close about $6.2 trillion in tax deductions and loopholes over 10 years.

Continue reading below the fold.

But at no point either before or after he became Mitt Romney's running mate did Paul Ryan have the courage to name a single deduction or loophole he'd close. Paul Krugman called it "Pink Slime Economics." Matthew Yglesias concurred, pointing out in March that Ryan was too cowardly to specify which of the $1 trillion in annual tax expenditures he'd end:

Thirteen pages dedicated to explaining his vision for revenue-neutral tax reform. And even so he manages to not name a single tax deduction that he's planning to eliminate. Home mortgage interest deduction? I dunno. Electric vehicle tax credit? I dunno. Deductibility of state and local income taxes? I dunno.
For his part, Paul Ryan repeatedly admitted as much. The House Ways and Means Committee, he said, would "show how they would go about doing this."

But because neither Paul Ryan nor Mitt Romney (who adopted the same dodge for his tax cut windfall for the wealthy) ever said how they would do "this," over the next 10 years the Ryan House budget would add substantially more to the national debt than President Obama's proposed 2013 plan.

As the Center for American Progress explained in March, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessment of the Ryan budget "did not test Rep. Ryan's claims about how his policies would actually affect spending or revenue," but "merely showed what would happen to the debt if his claims were true." In a nutshell, they are not:

But the House budget's entire claim to deficit reduction is built on the foundation of those fantasy revenue levels. Without them, the debt goes up, not down. In fact, with all the House budget's tax cuts properly accounted for, revenue would average just 15.3 percent of GDP from 2013 through 2022, not 18.3 percent. The result: deficits would never drop below 4.4 percent of GDP, and would rise to more than 5 percent of GDP by 2022. The national debt, measured as a share of GDP, would never decline, surpassing 80 percent by 2014, and 90 percent by 2022. By comparison, President Barack Obama's budget proposal, released in February, would stabilize the debt by 2015, and bring it down to 76 percent by 2022.

The result?  Republicans in Congress would have to vote repeatedly to raise the debt ceiling.

In April 2011, Speaker Boehner admitted as much to a gathering of Tea Party members in his home state of Ohio:

One of the 25 or so leaders, all from Boehner's district, asked him if Republicans would raise America's $14.3 trillion debt limit.

According to half a dozen attendees interviewed by Reuters, the most powerful Republican in Washington said "yes."

"And we're going to have to raise it again in the future," he added. With the mass retirement of America's Baby Boomers, he explained, it would take 20 years to balance the U.S. budget and 30 years after that to erase the nation's huge fiscal deficit.

In May 2012, Boehner acknowledged that the Paul Ryan budget almost all Republicans backed would violate "my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase":
"Yeah, the big bad House Republican budget that would just gut everything under the sun, according to my friends across the aisle, would still require a $5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling over the next 10 years. Why? Because of the great big demographic bubble -- baby boomers like me, that are going to retire and continue to retire for the next 20-25 years. It's a big challenge."
A challenge, Boehner and his Republican allies now insist, which only applies to President Obama and Democrats.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for this excellent post Jon. We must now (7+ / 0-)

    educate and prepare ourselves for the upcoming debt-ceiling battles over GOP demands for a dollar of cuts for ever dollar of debt-ceiling extensions.

    You raise what I expect will be one of our strongest counter-points: that cuts if this magnitude would send our economy into severe recession.

    The Republicans are about to get a lesson in that old Chinese saying, "be careful of what you wish for, you might just get it."

    Last night, Grover Norquist was celebrating on Wolf Blitzer that Democrats have locked in 85% of the Bush tax cuts, without replacement revenues, that we've railed against for 12 years.

    But, now we must demand that the GOP list the specific cuts they are demanding. Prior to last night the yearly deficit was $1.2 trillion.  Does anyone know yet, what it will be now?  Some suggest it may be more.  

    This is a lot of cuts. Part of our strategy needs to be to galvanize public opinion that these are way too much cuts, and what we need are more revenues from closing corporate loopholes, and perhaps lower caps on individual and family deductions.

    I can't wait to see plot like figure one based on our new numbers.

    We are also going to have to change majority opposition to cutting defense.  

    No one likes the idea in the abstract.  We will need to correctly frame these cuts as a choice between Medicare for grandma versus cutting maybe 25% of the 800 military bases around the world, many of dubious national security value.  For example, why are we keeping such large expenses for NATO to protect Europe from a tank blitz from the former Soviet Union that does not even exist anymore.  Most of the former Warsaw Pact nations are not in the European Union are they not?

    If the Europeans are not worried about this to spend more than 2% of their GDP in military why should we?

    My understanding is that we've nearly doubled "total defense spending" since 9/11.  We  now need to return to more sustainable levels.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 12:47:09 PM PST

  •  For more irony if I may: The GOP do not have the.. (0+ / 0-)

    ..leverage over the debt ceiling they believe (at least measured in bluster) they have, and the "smarter" of them know it, like Former Sen. Judd Gregg  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...  - (with video @ link)

    When asked on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," whether a debt ceiling increase should be a bargaining chip, Gregg said, "Personally -- no. I happen to think that when your credit card comes due, you pay the bill."
    And if we Dems broadcast how much waste republicans have already incurred:
    House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that the GOP plans to use that leverage by demanding more spending cuts, but the move will result in great economic costs. In 2011, Republican demands nearly led to a credit default and ultimately cost taxpayers “$18.9 billion over 10 years, due to elevated interest rates between January and August 2011.(emphasis added)
    When this profligate waste by the reckless republicans becomes the Dems clarion call, and other costs like the millions spent by the house GOP on 33 votes to repeal PPACA, America will take it out of their hides in 2014.

    So the GOP won't be dictating spending cuts to the big three with any real force behind it
    If we Dems hammer these figures home showing that austerity was all about privatizing SS, ending Medicare and Medicaid; that deficit reduction has never been the goal of these assholes we can reduce the viability of these so called debt ceiling bargaining chips - a lot - and let Simpson austerity types take a hike.

    We bring the conversation back where it should be - JOBS and the infrastructure spending needed to make them real

    Nice work Jon Perr, exactly what is needed to shrink the sixe of the republicans next debt ceiling wrecking ball

  •  The repub agenda is a sham backed by money from (0+ / 0-)

    angry rich white men and will cause us to lose our standing as the strongest country on earth if we let them continue their behind the scenes control.

    Our money system is not what we have been led to believe. The creation of money has been "privatized," or taken over by private money lenders. Thomas Jefferson called them “bold and bankrupt adventurers just pretending to have money.” webofdebt

    by arealniceguy on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:03:41 AM PST

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