Diary

Dems Show Faux Fiscal Restraint in Tax Extender Debate

Democrats seem to have finally caught on. Spending money we don’t have is not a good idea! But are they really concerned about our bottom line or are they concerned with their chances for reelection. I have a hunch it’s the latter.

Democrats attempted claim to fiscal restraint begins and ends with the recent debate over the Tax Extenders bill a.k.a. “Son of Stimulus.” The bill, which began with a price tag of $200 billion, met with resistance within the Democratic caucus. Bill Nelson was one of many who met the bill with a sense of sticker shock, saying, “when it’s about spending here that’s not offset, you have to feel uncomfortable.”

To shore up support for the bill House Democratic Leaders begun to scale back some of the bill’s pricier provisions.  As RollCall reported,

“In a nod to fiscal conservatives’ concerns about the size of the package and the deficit. The $127 billion bill would now add $84 billion to the deficit.”

Only with Democrats in power could adding $84 billion to the deficit be considered a nod to fiscal conservatives.  Moreover, the reductions were accomplished through fiscal gimmicks first made famous in the health care reform debate. A majority of the purported “cuts” came by shortening the length of the Medicare doc fix by two years. Shortening the budgetary window creates fantasy savings. Without a long term solution the doc fix will have to be continually revisited and extended to prevent doctors from seeing a massive cut in their reimbursement rates. Shortening the length of the fix doesn’t save money, it only reduces the amount of time between spending.

Those cuts were still not enough for the newly fiscally conscientious Democrats. So the leadership again went back to the drawing board, trying to save-face and come up with something that could garner votes. The latest price-tag reductions come by terminating the $31 billion Medicaid bailout and removing the $22 billion doc fix. As Politico reports

For the once activist House, the frustrations this week underscore again how much energy was consumed by the long healthcare debate. The normal budget process has been a first casualty, but the jobs and economic relief initiative gave Democrats a chance still to show some ability to come together and map a course ahead on tough fiscal issues.

Instead the leadership first overreached and then found itself baffled by an almost “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off” posture among nervous party moderates, already in shut-down mode months before November’s elections.

Democrats have finally realized that after jamming their lead foot on the fiscal accelerator for 18 months it’s hard to steer the car. Our nation is swerving in and out of traffic with a clear dead-end in sight. While Democrats are looking to bail, Americans are left to find the brakes. Whether they realize it or not, we are all yelling “I Want to Get Off.” But, it’s too late.

Should we even believe that Democrats have realized the error of their spending ways? Frankly, no. They have shied away from passing a budget because reminding people of record debt and deficits is not popular in an election year. They are treading lightly in their Tax Extender’s package for the same reason. But does anyone think that if there weren’t an election in November that Democrats would be showing the same fiscal concern? They’ve certainly given us no reason to.

The worries about the deficit are really just worries about their chances in November. There has been a dramatic shift in public attitudes about government spending. The recession has forced American families to carefully scrutinize their budget and squeeze the most out of every dollar. They now expect their government to do the same. With the political winds blowing toward fiscal restraint, Democrats are just a party flapping in the wind.

by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee