Yes, Obama Has a Deficit Plan

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 22 2013 10:29 AM

Obama Has a Deficit Reduction Plan and Republicans Don't

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You can say a lot of things about President Obama's deficit reduction plan, but you cannot say that it doesn't exist

Photo by Brendan Smilaowski/AFP/Getty Images

Jonathan Chait identifies another important mode of BipartisanThink on the budget deficit, this time pointing the finger at David Brooks, who in today's column bemoans GOP intransigence on fiscal matters while insisting that Obama "declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem" or at best has "a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich)."

As Chait notes, this is simply false. Here is Barack Obama's deficit reduction plan. It does indeed propose $580 billion in additional tax revenue from the rich. It also proposes $130 billion in cuts to Social Security via the adoption of chained CPI. It proposes cutting domestic discretionary spending by $100 billion. It proposes cutting military discretionary spending by $100 billion.* It proposes $400 billion in provider payment cuts to government health care programs. It proposes $30 billion in cuts to farm subsidies, and has $100 billion worth of extra ideas for cutting non-health non-Social Security mandatory spending. The CPI change would also amount to a broad-based tax increase that would raise an extra $100 billion, and the plan would result in an additional $200 billion in reduced interest expenses.

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You can say a lot of things about this plan, but you cannot say that it doesn't exist or that it consists entirely of of proposals to increase taxes on the rich.

What Chait doesn't note is that this particular mode of BipartisanThink has a particularly egregious problem because not only have Republicans been intransigent, they've never produced a deficit reduction plan. Somewhere on the road to crowning Rep. Paul Ryan the champion of spending discipline, people seem to have forgotten that over the next ten years, Ryan's budget would reduce Medicare spending by $0. Outside of the formal framework of the Ryan budget, Republicans have repeatedly suggested that we should increase short-term Medicare spending by eliminating Medicare cuts associated with the Affordable Care Act. The Ryan budget allegedly reduces fiscal problems over the long term by slowly phasing in Medicare cuts starting 11 years in the future. But within the medium-term window, Republicans have never put forward a deficit reduction plan. They've simply suggested the vague-but-politically-convenient concept that this can be achieved without raising taxes on anyone or cutting spending on any of the currently elderly or the military.

* Correction, Feb. 26, 2013: This post misstated that President Obama's deficit reduction plan proposes cutting both domestic and non-military discretionary spending by $100 billion each. The plan proposes cutting domestic and military spending.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.