GOP Baited, Now Reeled In

Last week I blogged at some length about just how strategically foolish the House Republicans are to be introducing an alternative budget. Turns out that John McCain thinks it's a GREAT idea, which I take as evidence of how right I was. McCain is trying to push the Senate Republicans into offering a budget, according to Congressional Quarterly, but wiser political minds are prevailing.

Not so on the House side, where today Rep. Paul Ryan is rolling out the GOP "alternative budget," in time for the start of floor debate on the Democratic "real budget" today.

Ryan gives an overview of the GOP budget proposal in a Wall Street Journal op-ed; I'm going to hold off on dissecting it until I've had more of a chance to analyze it. For now, I'll just say that it includes massive tax cuts for the wealthy; no economic stimulus spending at all; serious changes to the politically-sacrosanct Medicare program; and a staggering five-year discretionary spending freeze. I noted in last week's post what happened when McCain pitched a one-year freeze; this is many, many, many times more politically hazardous.

But here's perhaps the biggest political problem: the GOP plan, unsurprisingly, includes huge, massive, deficits. Not quite as much as Obama's, but enough to obliterate it as an issue -- and the Republicans' most effective criticism to date has been that the Obama budget proposal would bury our future generations in debt.

Well, as I quickly read the GOP alternative, they're jacking up the total debt to a total of $10.8 trillion in five years, and $13.6 trillion in ten years. That may be, as they claim, $3.6 trillion less than Obama's version at the 10-year mark, but can you really make a big stink out of that difference? Can you really convince the public that one path would demolish the value of the dollar and trigger hyper-inflation, while the slighly-fewer-trillions path is good policy?

But wait -- it gets even better! Last week I also opined that it will be very difficult for GOP House leaders to hold their members together around an actual budget proposal. Well, according to The Hill, House conservatives -- via their Republican Study Committee -- are already talking about opposing the leaders' new proposal, and offering their own, more fiscally disciplined version. This one, they claim, will actually balance the budget in 10 years. That should be fun reading.

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