Since last summer, the various GOP primary opponents have offered a myriad of tax and budget proposals. Different pundits, think tanks, campaigns and others have come up with their own numbers on the budget-balancing sincerity of all of the GOP candidates, and this has caused many of the candidates to spend a vast amount of time, ink and money defending (or in the case of Romney, expanding and then semi-retreating from) their respective plans. However, I think the candidates have erred in doing so. Rather than spend time on their own flawed proposals (with the exception of Ron Paul, whose cuts are so necessarily massive the budget would actually balance, and quickly), the candidates should focus on a four-prong attack on President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal, which is far worse than any of the candidates’ plans.
The first attack point should hit the economic growth projections of the President. I used this attack last evening in a post on the Reason Foundation blog:
[T]he President’s FY 2013 budget assumes 3 percent “Real GDP” growth for 2013 and “around 4 percent annually” in 2014. This projection is far greater than the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) expectations, which as of January 31, 2012 were that: “real GDP [will grow] by 2.0 percent this year and 1.1 percent next year .”
The wish-based estimation by the President is consistent with the inaccurate projections in the President’s FY 2012 budget, which said 2011 would have economic growth of 3.1 percent and 2012 would grow at 4 percent. The CBO, which said in 2011 that growth in 2011 would be 2.7 percent and 2012 will be 3.1 percent, was far closer to the actual GDP growth of 1.7 percent in 2011, as currently calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Since the President’s proposal was intended as an election budget instead of a true starting point on the upcoming budget debates of FY 2013, I think it’s safe to assume CBO is going to continue being more accurate when it comes to economic growth expectations than the White House.
The second point of attack should focus on the President’s tax hikes, both those explicitly stated and manipulatively unstated. In his proposed FY 2013 budget, the President claims the intention of enacting tax increases of $1.561 trillion over the next ten years. However, as pointed out by Curtis Dubay of The Heritage Foundation, the President claims credit for extending a number of current tax policies…but in doing so he claims he is cutting taxes. Clearly, extending current policy (in this case, the Bush-era tax rates for those making less than $250,000 annually) cannot be considered a new tax cut. Between this misleading statement and actual tax increases Dubay found, President Obama’s tax increases are far closer to $2 trillion than $1.6 trillion.
Third, of the $4 trillion in deficit “cuts” over the next ten years, over a majority consist of those mandated in the Budget Control Act and winding down military actions Iraq and Afghanistan (for the record, the latter is a bipartisan trick, used by both parties in the last three years alone). As noted here:
Similarly, the President says in his budget message, “[T]his budget will cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.” But that includes $2 trillion in deficit reduction already enacted into current law under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and other measures last year. The President can’t claim savings for his new budget that were already enacted into law last year.
Moreover, the President is taking credit here for the spending cuts Tea Party Republicans forced on him to get his debt ceiling increase…over his demand for a “clean” debt limit increase. President Obama rhetorically blowtorched the Republicans for forcing him to the wall over the debt limit increase to get those spending cuts, and continues to do so. But in his budget message, he wants to take credit for those results.
The President also includes in his supposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction another trillion in savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those funds were never requested and were never going to be spent…
The President’s budget also doesn’t include over $300 billion in additional spending just enacted in the Medicare “doc-fix”…But the budget does include $300 billion in assumed debt interest savings from all of these supposed deficit reductions in the budget that are not new deficit reductions.
That leaves an actual net deficit reduction proposed in this budget of $400 billion over 10 years, only about 10% of what Obama claims, and less than 5% of the additional deficits and debt that would otherwise result over the next 10 years.
The fourth attack is a simple one: Does the President actually think a tax hike of nearly $2 trillion is in any way plausible, given the current makeup of the House and Senate, especially in a year when Senate Democrats are desperate to keep their majority? (To those who are opposed to the candidacy of Ron Paul, yes, I am aware that his proposed cuts are unrealistic as well. However, he is not the President of the United States, and therefore can propose what he wants as opposed to what can pass into law.)
The fact is that most of the remaining candidates’ tax and budget plans nibble at the edges of our vast tax and spending problems – again, with the exception of Paul. Rather than let an Obama-friendly media dictate the course of the economic and spending debates, the candidates should relentlessly and aggressively note the obvious: “The President put forth a budget that fudges the numbers, hides the facts and is a campaign document instead of a governing proposal. This is irresponsible, and I can do better. “