Okay, we'll look at the punchline first, then find the joke.
The Republican plan to slash the deficit doesn't slash the deficit. It doesn't come close. The mythical $1.6 TRILLION deficit reduction averages about 15 billion annually, and most of that doesn't happen for years. That's the punchline.
And here's the joke. The rest of the reduction comes from President Obama's future success in pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. That's right. Almost all of what Republicans are boasting about comes from administration plans for President Obama to conclude wartime spending in those two countries.
More than 90% of the Republican deficit reduction has nothing to do with Republican deficit reduction.
The only analogy I could come up with was a speech by Democrat Mario Cuomo, then Governor of New York, in December 1994. Governor Cuomo was about to become ex-Governor Cuomo, having just been defeated for re-election by Republican George Pataki. Cuomo took it in stride. He looked over the audience. The weather was cold as winter approached, but he spoke without a coat and his speech contained no bitterness. He was making no claims, he said, but he did wish to point out that, since New Yorkers had replaced him, the days had been getting shorter.
The comparison is far from perfect. Cuomo was joking, and his humor was gentle. The Republican plan is not all that funny, their let-them-eat-babies program to abolish Medicare, slash Medicaid, and abolish head start, is hardly gentle, and they really are trying to take credit for something they have nothing to do with. So why won't someone call them on it?
Media folks are a notoriously lazy lot. It's easier to play along than to put on eye shades and do the boring work of real reporting. The Economist Magazine is published in London, but they spoke for reporters everywhere about Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) the author of GOP plan. "His 'Roadmap for America’s Future', was a serious proposal to balance the long-term budget by effective (though politically unpalatable) means, such as replacing traditional Medicare fee-for-service with vouchers."
This is not all bad. Reducing the deficit right now would pretty much destroy the economy. A few fat cats might do pretty well. The rest of us would be standing on street corners selling apples to survive. Sucking a ton of cash out of a shaky economy still in recovery is simply not a good idea. Reducing deficits generally works when inflation is raging or when economic times are bright. So the GOP plan might not destroy the economy after all.
In fact, chances are pretty good the Republican plan will only seriously hurt seniors, poor folks, and little kids. You see, while the plan does almost nothing to the deficit, it does do something substantial. The Republican plan will slash $4.5 trillion from programs that educate children, keep seniors alive, and keep people of all ages from starving on the streets. They have to do this because they won't touch really big programs like defense.
Now you hurt a lot of people when you abolish Medicare and replace it with vouchers, and increase the retirement age, and cut back Medicaid that much. But $4.5 trillion! Wow. That should reduce the deficit, right? It will show a lot less debt than doing nothing, won't it?
Well, let's not forget the tax cut. Extremely wealthy folks would be the main winners in the tax sweepstakes. That will eat up more than $4.2 trillion of the $4.5 trillion.
The Republican plan, the serious grown up plan, the plan that finally gets down to the business of doing something about the deficit, does nothing, really and truly nothing, but transfer funds from folks on the ragged edge of survival to folks enjoying life up on the mountain top. Depending on your view of society and government, this might be a defensible idea: Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness and all.
But reduce the deficit it? There ain't no there there.
Think about that the next time some conservative calls you to his lunch table and introduces you. You might take note that his imaginary friends aren't really there and the menu he was carefully reading is a coloring book.
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