It’s almost like magic (poof!)–how the roles in the debate over the federal budget have been reversed now that the Democrats are in charge, with the Republicans now using the same old talking points that the Democrats used during the Bush Administration. Here are some parts of (Republican) Senator Judd Gregg’s response to today’s Presidential radio address that make me sentimental about my days on the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee…
First, there’s the old “compare this president’s debt to the debt of all previous presidents” strategy:
In the next five years, President Obama’s budget will double the national debt; in the next ten years it will triple the national debt.
To say this another way, if you take all the debt of our country run up by all of our presidents from George Washington through George W. Bush, the total debt over all those 200-plus years since we started as a nation, it is President Obama’s plan to double that debt in just the first five years that he is in office.
(It’s always handy to refer to the nominal dollar value of the debt if you want to make the point that it’s growing by an enormous amount over time.)
Let me here note that in return, the Democrats of the House Budget Committee are bragging about the deficit reduction accomplished in their proposed budget plan in the same manner that the Bush Administration used to brag about their budget (emphasis added):
A well-understood, critical component of the above talking point: don’t dare extend the budget window far enough to reveal the deficit coming back up. Hence the five-year, not ten-year, window adopted by the congressional budget committees–it makes bragging (and “success”) easier. And to the extent the deficit is easy to cut in half because it starts at an unusually-high level, and to the extent that it will come down mostly due to an economic recovery rather than hard policy choices…well, just try not to mention that.
And now, it’s the Republicans accusing the Obama budget of intergenerational inequity…Boy, does this part of Senator Gregg’s response bring back memories:
[President Obama's budget] will lead to an immense national debt that not only threatens the value of the dollar and puts at risk our ability to borrow money to run the government. But it will also place our children at a huge disadvantage as they inherit this debt which will make their chances of success less than those given to us by our parents. It is not right for one generation to do that to another generation.
But don’t worry too much… the Republicans still hold dear to their hearts this line (again, from Senator Gregg’s response):
[President Obama] also is proposing the largest tax increase in history, much of it aimed at taxing small business people who have been, over the years, the best job creators in our economy.
In fact, I’d like to critique this line of argument that Senator Gregg emphasized several times in his remarks:
[T]he budget of the President spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much.
It can’t be true that a budget plan could both tax too much and borrow too much. As I’ve argued before, the problem with the Obama budget is that it both spends a lot and cuts taxes by too much (i.e., taxes too little). That’s how you get to the borrowing too much part.