The big debt ceiling deal vote is scheduled for 2:00 PM Eastern time this afternoon. Votes are being whipped, wrangled, and purchased as we speak. Utah Republican senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch have already announced they will not vote for the deal, and other conservative legislators are weighing an afternoon Tea Party against yet another trip to the All-U-Can-Eat deficit sundae bar, which will begin using low-carb waffle cones if the great debt ceiling compromise passes.
Meanwhile, there is resistance to the deal from the Left as well, as Congressional Black Caucus leader Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) called the agreement “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” I may not agree with Rep. Cleaver on much, but I’d like to congratulate him on a nicely-turned phrase, and ask him if he knows where I could purchase such a sandwich, because it sounds delicious. It would be like a Monte Cristo, but filled with barbecued evil. I’m on the Washington diet plan now, which means I can eat huge servings of anything I want, provided I drink Diet Coke with one out of every ten meals.
If the bipartisan budget compromise falls apart, Congress will be looking for a new plan quickly, because fiscal Armageddon is tomorrow. There won’t be enough time to write up any more complex legislation. Everyone says the only real and effective deficit control plan – the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act – is dead, even though it passed the House and never received a vote in the Senate. What will Congress do?
I’d like to suggest a simple alternative that would include dramatic spending cuts, without any chance that liberals could decry the GOP as heartless monsters who want to starve old people and murder women. It would be easy to write up, since the heavy budgeting work was completed over ten years ago.
I call it “The Bill Clinton Budget Act of 2011.” It would simply require the United States government to adopt Bill Clinton’s final budget from 1999, and hold government spending to that level over the next ten years.
That’s the year Democrats incessantly boast that “Bill Clinton balanced the budget.” Since they give him so much credit for this achievement, and have never been known to describe President Clinton as heartless and cruel to the helpless dependents of Big Government, they can hardly denounce his levels of government spending as “irresponsible” or “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.”
As another sweetener to win Democrat votes, the Bill Clinton Budget Act of 2011 would include some hefty tax increases, as the Bush tax cuts would obviously be wiped out. I know that will make it a tough sell to conservatives, and I’m not happy about it myself – but remember, those tax cuts were going to end in 2013 anyway, and the budget deal reached over the weekend makes it virtually impossible to extend them. Besides, if there’s one thing we’ve learned beyond question or debate over the past two months, it’s that only spending cuts are laid out 10 years in advance. Tax policy can be adjusted at any time. We can revisit tax rates after Obama is gone.
And what spending cuts we would get, in exchange for compromising with the Left by ending the Bush tax cuts a year early! Clinton spent only $1.7 trillion in 1999. The Obama budget baseline is a staggering $3.7 trillion. The CBO would score a return to Clinton levels of spending as a $20 trillion spending “cut.”
By contrast, the deal being voted upon today would “cut” spending by no more than $2.5 trillion over the next decade, and it would more likely chug in at $2 trillion. The Bill Clinton Budget Act of 2011 would therefore be ten times as large.
No “committees,” no multi-stage debt ceiling increases, and real debt relief. An honorary spokesman the Democrats can’t savage as a Tea Party radical or callous butcher of the elderly. This proposal has it all – and by simply proposing it, Republicans would raise awareness about the absurdity of baseline budgeting.
Even if the Bill Clinton Budget Act of 2011 dies in the House, the arguments against it would be highly educational for a public that thinks the phrase “spending cut” means something entirely different than its Beltway meaning. The public is, quite literally, not even speaking the same language as its ruling class. Bill Clinton would make an excellent translator.