Bayh’s unique brand of fiscal responsibility

BAYH’S UNIQUE BRAND OF FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY…. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) wants to encourage his party to take the lead on deficit reduction, so he took his message to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. If there’s one piece of media real estate that connects with Democratic policymakers, it’s the WSJ. (Presumably, Bayh intended to tout the message on Hannity, but couldn’t get booked.)

Bayh recognizes that GOP lawmakers and the previous administration made a mess of things, and wants to see Democrats get the country’s fiscal matters back on track.

Any serious effort to control the deficit must begin with spending restraint. Efficiency and frugality, common virtues in the private sector, must be incorporated into government. Congress should enact health-care reform that actually lowers the deficit. For the next fiscal year, assuming the economy has gathered sufficient momentum, we should freeze domestic discretionary spending, limit increases in defense spending to the rate of inflation, forgo pay raises for federal workers, and institute a federal hiring freeze.

Democrats would be wise to ignore this misguided advice.

For one thing, it’d be easier to lower the costs of health care, if only lawmakers like Bayh would support the public option and other cost-saving measures endorsed by the White House. For another, Bayh’s ideas for cutbacks are a recipe for disaster. As Tim Fernholz noted, “Freezing domestic discretionary spending is insane during a recovery, as is a freezing federal hiring — that’s the recipe for a double-dip recession.”

Bayh added:

Spending restraint will not come easily to the Democratic Party. Pent-up demand for investment in education, health care and the environment is understandable after the Bush years. But long-term progressive government can’t be built on a foundation of debt and deficits. We cannot indefinitely share with the less-fortunate resources we do not possess.

I see. The “less-fortunate” — including middle-class families who’d benefit from affordable health care and broader access to education — will have to wait until the mountains of Republican-generated debt are addressed.

This might be slightly more credible from Bayh if he hadn’t recently endorsed adding a quarter of a trillion dollars to the deficit for a tax cut that would exclusively benefit mutli-millionaires and billionaires.

Sure, senator, tell us again about the dangers of debt and deficits, and how working families should wait but Paris Hilton shouldn’t.