After Four Years of Waiting, Is This Budget Really the Best Democrats Can Do?

Despite their legal responsibility, Senate Democrats didn’t release a budget for four years. After having some time to digest their recently released budget package, I can now see why. Not only is it utterly lacking in ideas to move the nation forward, it’s a document deeply rooted in the flawed status quo. It’s filled with tax hikes and spending increases for seemingly no other reason than to keep the government growing. This is a budget designed to paper over their past mistakes with other people’s money, not present a vision for a workable America.

The Democrats’ budget has been repudiated from across the political spectrum.

“The Democratic proposal never balances, and calls for a $1 trillion tax increase, at least $100 billion in stimulus spending, and a smattering of nebulous spending cuts, most of which can be chalked up to accounting gimmicks,” says the right-leaning National Review.

“Partisan in tone and complacent in substance, it scores points against the Republicans and reassures the party’s liberal base – but deepens these senator’s commitment to an unsustainable policy agenda,” writes the left-leaning Washington Post editorial Board.

And then there’s the unclassifiable Paul Krugman. He’s so far to the left of left that I hesitate to place him at any point along the conservative-to-liberal spectrum. Nevertheless, this is all he could muster to say about the Democrats’ plan:

“So we could definitely do worse than the Senate Democratic plan, and we probably will. It is, however, an extremely cautious proposal, one that doesn’t follow through on its own analysis.”

Not exactly glowing reviews. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has actually read the plan. The document is shockingly devoid of details, so you’ll just have to take Democrats’ word on almost all of their “ideas,” but the plan can be summed up by saying it protects the party’s big-government priorities while attempting to claim it reduces the deficit.

The plan hopes to cuts spending by $975 billion over the next decade, but a closer look at the numbers belies their ridiculousness. That figure includes a $240 billion “war savings” gimmick, which claims credit for cuts that are already scheduled to happen as the war in Afghanistan winds down. Amongst the other flimflam and refuse, the plan also includes $240 billion in unspecified cuts, which Democrats are labeling “responsible savings across domestic spending,” and $242 billion in reduced interest payments, which aren’t traditionally counted as savings.

Of course none of those spending cuts really matter given the proposal includes $960 billion in new spending to replace the sequester and $100 billion in new stimulus spending (because that worked so well the last time).

But while the spending cuts are silly and fake, the tax increases are oh so real. The plan includes more than $1.5 trillion by, in its words, “closing loopholes and eliminating wasteful spending in the tax code that benefits the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.” Translated from liberal-speak that simply means “unspecified tax hikes.”

And what do we achieve for all of these machinations? Next to nothing. Despite trying to sell the plan as a “balanced approach,” the plan never balances the budget…as in ever.

Democrats apparently realize the lack of substance in the plan. Rather than attempt to sell voters on what the plan accomplishes, a list of talking points circulated by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, focuses on what the plan doesn’t do – “dismantle Medicare,” “make cuts that harm families,” etc. As the National Review’s Andrew Stiles astutely notes,

“Murray’s budget, which is woefully light on specifics, essentially embodies what former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner told [Paul] Ryan last year: “We’re not coming before you today to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem. What we do know is, we don’t like yours.”

The problem, as many vulnerable Democrats in moderate voting districts are quickly finding out, is that the public doesn’t really like Democrats’ proposal either. The executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Guy Cecil, even tacitly admits that the spending plan’s tax hikes and spending increases could pose an enormous risk to a number of red state incumbents.

The size and scope of the backlash, from both inside and outside the party, is a sad indictment of how Democrats have spent the four years since their last budget. After all, is this really the best they could come up with? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes.