Eric Cantor is back home from voting a 40th time to overturn “Obamacare,” with a pit stop at Fox News where he spouted the latest right-wing talking points about how we have to cut “entitlements” to get the House to fund the government for the next fiscal year because of the “deficit crisis.” But, guess what? There IS no run-away budget deficit. In spite of the do-nothing GOP House of Representatives and the filibuster-loving Senate GOP minority, the deficit is under control. This deficit reduction wasn’t done the right way, nor was it done in a way to actually improve government efficiency. Atlantic magazine this month explains just how deficit management was stumbled into, in spite of the Republican-caused gridlock in Washington.
The first step to lowering the deficit was the fiscal-cliff deal the president got Congress to agree to before the first of the year, the deal that raised income tax rates on wealthy Americans. Then, because Congress refused to act to stop a ridiculous sequester that was so extreme no one figured it would happen, another $1 trillion will be lopped off the deficit by the end of the next decade. Those combined actions, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are sufficient to stabilize the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio. That means the debt is no longer growing faster than the U.S. economy. The deficit crisis is over. As the economy slowly regains momentum after the Great Recession, the improvement in the deficit picture will become even more pronounced.
It’s time to declare victory in the deficit war and work to replace the idiotic sequester with more reasonable and sustainable budget constraints. Plus, Congress needs to raise the debt limit and pass a budget. However, Cantor and his tea-poisoned majority in the House now insist that Social Security and Medicare have to be slashed. Since neither one caused the deficit in the first place, it would be foolish to agree to whatever cockamamie scheme Cantor and company have planned to wreck the social safety net for seniors.
There is no Social Security crisis, never has been. That being said, President Obama offered the GOP a deal in 2012 that upset his base greatly, when he offered to change the cost of living adjustment in Social Security to a “chained CPI.” That one change would have made Social Security solid for decades to come, but there is a far better way to do that. Raise the amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes over time until any gap between income and expenditure is taken care of. Voila! Problem solved.
As President Obama has said over and over, and as budget experts have corroborated, Medicare is a budget problem over the long term. After all, Medicare insures the oldest and sickest citizens, many of whom could never get insurance in the private marketplace. One of the purposes of the Affordable Care Act was to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending by slowing the overall health care costs. CNN reports that result is already happening.
“Cost-conscious consumers are a major factor driving the slowdown [in health care spending]…An Affordable Care Act provision that went into effect in late 2012, which aims to limit return visits to hospitals, is also playing a part in slowing spending.”
I believe that Eric Cantor and others in the dysfunctional Republican Party have now returned to their attempts to starve what they derisively call “entitlements,” programs that American citizens pay for during their working lives through payroll taxes, because there is a huge pushback by Republicans in the House against the sequester cuts. Proof is in the way Cantor and Boehner had to pull their transportation bill just before they left for their five-week vacation. When GOPers saw how their sequester-inspired cuts would hit transportation spending back in their own districts, the votes to pass the bill melted into thin air.
Check out this statement from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Republican: “The House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted just three months ago. Thus, I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration – and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts – must be brought to an end.”
Cantor and the rest of the Republican Virginia congressional delegation seem ready to spend their time fighting with one another about what to cut, when to cut, rather than governing the nation. They all knew that Virginia would get a double whammy with sequester cuts to defense and to the federal workforce. Yet, it went into effect and ironically has helped solved the deficit crisis in the worst possible way. My advice to Eric Cantor is simple: Shut up about the “deficit crisis,” end the sequester and try to govern, for a change.