The CAP Act is arguably worse than the Ryan plan

THE CAP ACT IS ARGUABLY WORSE THAN THE RYAN PLAN…. MoveOn.org and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich have a new video out today, slamming the “CAP Act” being championed by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.). Reich makes a brief, compelling case, calling it “the Republican plan with lipstick.”

I heartily endorse the sentiment. The “CAP Act,” as I’ve been arguing the past few weeks, would impose insane, statutory spending caps on Congress, with the goal of automatically slashing public investments in practically everything. The measure is generating growing support from Republicans and “centrist” Democrats, but it’s still one of the worst ideas in recent memory.

But with due respect to Reich and MoveOn, I think they’re arguably understating matters. The CAP Act isn’t “the same” as the Republican agenda; it’s almost certainly worse.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday that a fellow Democrat’s plan to tackle federal spending would be even worse for Medicaid than House Republicans’ “heartless” proposals for the program.

House Republicans’ fiscal 2012 budget would convert federal Medicaid spending into block grants to states, which opponents say would ultimately lead the states to cut benefits or drop people from the program. The proposal is “almost beyond my moral understanding,” Rockefeller said at a press conference.

But he said Medicaid cuts would be more dramatic under Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) proposal to cap federal spending. She and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have proposed limiting total federal spending to about 20 percent of gross domestic product. Such “global caps” would be “worse than the House budget bill,” Rockefeller said.

On a related note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Paul Van de Water explained to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, “Imposing an arbitrary limit on federal spending would risk tipping faltering economies into recession, make recessions deeper, and make recovery from a recession more difficult.”

Heather McGhee also did a nice job summarizing the case against the CAP Act, calling it what it is: “a depression maker.”

I realize this seems like a dry topic, which isn’t yet generating much attention, and the idea of arbitrary spending caps might even poll well. But I’m going to keep banging this drum. At this point, these caps probably have enough support to actually pass both chambers, and if enforced, they’d obliterate the safety net and destroy any chance of progressive policymaking for a generation. And yet, there’s some talk about including the idea in the Gang of Six plan and/or making it a precondition for raising the debt ceiling.

In other words, this really should be taken seriously.