YouCut

YOUCUT…. Oh, good, another gimmick pretending to be policy work.

House Republicans will launch a project Wednesday in which they will offer bills to eliminate spending programs that Americans vote online to cut.

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) will unveil the project, called “YouCut,” which will combine Republicans’ push for spending cuts with attempts toward online engagement.

People can vote online or through text message on a list of five proposals to reduce types of spending, on which House Republicans will then force a vote in the House the following week.

The list of possible areas for cuts is pretty underwhelming. For example, participants in this little exercise can eliminate the Presidential Election Fund, saving $260 million over five years — but in the process making national candidates more dependent on outside fundraising. Folks can also vote to eliminate $200,000 a year in HUD grants for doctoral research on housing policy.

What’s especially interesting, though, is that all of the proposals don’t amount to much given the larger budget picture. Merit aside, if officials were to scrap every penny of the spending on Cantor’s list, it would save taxpayers about $1.1 billion a year.

Obviously, for regular American households, $1.1 billion is an enormous amount of money. But when we’re talking about a federal budget that’s nearly $4 trillion, Cantor’s money saving ideas, taken together, represent far less than 1% of the total.

In contrast, Democratic plans on health care, student loans, and energy policy would produce significant budget savings — but generated apoplectic opposition from Cantor and other Republicans.

I guess this isn’t too big a surprise. When President Obama reached out to congressional Republicans last summer, urging them to put together a list of spending cuts they’d like to see, the GOP caucus came up with $23 billion in proposed cuts over five years — far less than the White House plan to reduce spending over the same period.

Cantor would obviously like to position Republicans as the party of fiscal responsibility and discipline, but I’m hard pressed to imagine why anyone would take this seriously.