Cutting $5.5 trillion in projected spending isn’t easy. Oxen are gored, third rails are grasped, and sacred cows are slaughtered. But House Republicans opted for the harder path in their budget, which was released earlier this month. They understood the political difficulty of identifying wasteful programs and either reforming or ending them, but they also believed in the larger policy victory found in lower taxes, focused investment, and budgetary sustainability.
Democrats, unsurprisingly, focused on a different objective: political expediency. The budget is a grab-bag of liberal priorities including increasing the minimum wage, expanding taxpayer-funded preschools, throwing money at green energy projects, maintaining the unsustainable course for entitlement programs, and buying off unions through increased funding for manufacturing. Heck, they even through in a raise to the defense spending caps that Republicans voted in favor of when passing the sequester.
Despite the enormous outlay of cash anticipated by the budget, Democrats still find money to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and expiring provisions of the American Taxpayer Relief Act. So how do they pull off that stunt? Well, they do propose a handful of ill-advised new taxes, like a new tax on financial transactions and a bevy of soak-the-rich schemes, but the main method is to simply chalk it up as deficit spending. The House Democratic blue print would spend $3.9 trillion next year and leave deficits totaling nearly $6 trillion over the next 10 years.
In other words, Democrats knew their budget wouldn’t pass so they made a conscious choice to hand out political goodies without regard to pricetag. They went big, they went bold and they went completely off the reservation because, well their policy prescriptions seem to run exactly counter to what voters say they wanted.
To understand why take a look at this reporting from the Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane:
Senior Democrats, dissatisfied with the party’s tepid prescriptions for combating income inequality, are drafting an “action plan” that calls for a massive transfer of wealth from the super-rich and Wall Street traders to the heart of the middle class. . .
The plan marks a rejection of the more cautious approach to economic policy taken last year by President Obama and Democratic leaders. That strategy — which emphasized raising the minimum wage, achieving pay equity for women and easing the burden of college debt — tanked with voters. Democrats lost 13 seats in the House and nine in the Senate, ceding control of that chamber to Republicans. . .
In an election postmortem, Democratic firms SKDKnickerbocker and the Benenson Strategy Group found that the party’s message had been off target, even for much of the base. Although the economy is growing and the jobless rate has fallen, most voters still don’t feel it.
Sixty percent of moderates and 62 percent of independents said they would favor “a candidate who emphasizes growth” over one who wants to “improve the economy through economic fairness.” More than 70 percent of Republicans favored a “growth” message, and Democrats split 50-50 on the question.
To sum it up: Democrats’ autopsy of their mid-term defeat showed that voters wanted the party to focus on economic growth, not wealth redistribution, and so what did they do? Offered up a plan that focused on redistributing the economic pie rather than growing it.
Amazingly, an enormous number of the Democratic caucus decided that the budget vision still didn’t go far enough to appease the leftist elements of the party. Ninety six House Democrats—one half of the caucus—voted in favor of the budget put together by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), which makes up one third of the party caucus. Although digging into just how extreme the CPC’s budget is deserving of its own blog post, consider this one fact: It proposes $4.8 trillion in new taxes over the next decade alone. Despite the tax wallop they still had the audacity to call it the “Better Off Budget.” What the budget fails to do is to explain who, outside the IRS, is actually going to be made better off.
That’s the type of La La Land thinking that Democrats have made a part of every discussion. Rather than address the enormous fiscal and economic issues head on, they use their budgets as political wish lists to appease certain constituencies. That’s no way to run a railroad, unless, that is, your goal is to drive our economic engine off the tracks.