By Patrick Ryan
Nobody is surprised to notice that Congress failed, once again, to do their duty to eliminate the $1 trillion budget deficit.
The budget Supercommittee of Congress, a joint committee of 12 Republican and Democratic House and Senate members, could not form a plan by November 23rd to confront the nation’s $15 trillion debt. President Obama has also threatened to veto any provisions to eliminate the automatic “sequester,” which will automatically cut $1.2 trillion from defense and domestic discretionary spending over 10 years starting in 2013.
So, what does this mean? It should mean that the Republican House, the only chamber that actually passed a budget for 2012, will introduce provisions of the Simpson-Bowles Plan to the floor and dare the Senate and the President to veto it.
Is this really the end of the military as we know it and the impoverishment of millions as education and housing budgets are forcibly cut?
The House has an opportunity here: 20 days after the sequestration order, the majority leader in either Congressional house can propose a joint resolution to modify the triggered cuts.
Indeed, the Budget Control Act of 2011 implemented this segment of the Gramm-Rudman provision, written in the Balanced Budget Act of 1985 (S. 1702 of the 99th Congress). As Senator Phil Gramm himself wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the resolution can be changed only with relevant amendments and debated over a period of 10 hours without filibuster.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) posted on his Facebook page on November 21st that, “[w]hile I’m disappointed the supercommittee could not reach an agreement, the House will forge ahead with the commitments we have made to reducing gov’t spending and creating a better environment for private-sector jobs.”
Luckily for him, the Gramm-Rudman provision allows for a simple majority vote on any alternative to sequestration, which lasts only one year; hence, if Republicans take either the White House or the Senate in 2012, they could eliminate provisions of Obamacare or even reform entitlements in the first couple months after inauguration.
I say bring back Simpson-Bowles, named after chairmen Senator Alan Simpson and former chief of staff Erskine Bowles. You may not know what that is, since President Obama called for his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, then promptly ignored it.
Yet, the Commission recommended responsible and healthy proposals including cutting tax rates “across the board, and reduc[ing] the top rate to between 23 and 29 percent.” While cutting tax rates, Congress must also “simplify” tax deductions, meaning either eliminating all tax credits, or retaining certain key ones such as the Earned Income or the Child Tax Credit.
More importantly, however, the Commission called for a cap on discretionary spending through 2020, “holding spending equal to or lower than spending in 2011, and return spending to precrisis 2008 levels in real terms in 2013.” That also means ‘’limiting future spending growth to half the projected inflation rate through 2020.”
That is the most important provision of Simpson-Bowles: limiting the future growth of spending. If Canada can cut their spending growth to an annual 1% for five consecutive years, the United States can CERTAINLY do better. Canada balanced its budget within three years.
In fact, the Republicans in the House should dare President Obama to veto his own Commission, to verify that he prioritizes politics above solving fundamental national issues, and to prove his mettle as the Campaign President.