The numbers don’t add up

THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP…. Following up on the last item, it’s worth keeping in mind, as the “Pledge to America” makes the rounds today, that it was apparently crafted by Republicans who lacked access to a calculator.

With control of the House, the Republicans said they would seek to immediately cancel any unspent money from last year’s $787 billion economic stimulus program, to freeze the size of the “nonsecurity” federal work force, and to quickly cut $100 billion in discretionary spending. But the blueprint, with echoes of the 1994 Contract With America, does not specify how the spending reductions would be carried out.

Right off the bat, House Republicans seriously want Americans to believe the struggling economy will be better off if we scrap investments in the economy and reduce the number of Americans (public workers) with jobs. That, in a word, is crazy.

But let’s also pause to appreciate the proposed $100 billion in cuts to discretionary spending. The House GOP leadership actually floated this idea a couple of weeks ago, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published an important analysis, explaining what the consequences of such an idea would be. To do as the “Pledge” suggests would require drastic cuts to education and essential public services — the kind of cuts that would hurt working families at a time when the economy is already struggling.

But, House Republicans say, these cuts are necessary to restore fiscal responsibility. Except, that’s crazy, too, since their numbers don’t come close to adding up.

The GOP left a $1.3 trillion budget deficit for Democrats to clean up. Two years later, Republicans have decided to push for $4 trillion in tax cuts, which would increase the deficit; push for the repeal of health care reform, which would increase the deficit; and increase spending on missile defense, which would increase the deficit.

It’d be a terrible mistake to cancel economic recovery funds, reduce the number of public jobs, and slash discretionary spending, but even if Republicans did all of this, economy be damned, the cuts don’t even come close to covering the costs of the GOP agenda.

In other words, Republicans have spent two years complaining about the deficit, and have used the deficit as an excuse to block all kinds of worthwhile legislation. But when presenting its own “Pledge,” the House GOP has presented a plan to make that same deficit considerably worse.

Why Americans would hire arsonists to put out a fire is something I’ll never fully understand.