Pay some attention to that party behind the curtain

PAY SOME ATTENTION TO THAT PARTY BEHIND THE CURTAIN…. This year, just about every sentence uttered by Republican candidates includes a noun, a verb, and a pledge to “cut spending.” There’s ample evidence voters actually like this sort of rhetoric, just so long as there are no specifics about what spending would get cut.

There are, of course, a few problems with the GOP argument. The first, as noted in this helpful NYT piece from David Herszenhorn, is that Republicans won’t actually commit to any detailed proposal.

[W]hile polls show that the Republicans’ message is succeeding politically, Republican candidates and party leaders are offering few specifics about how they would tackle the nation’s $13.7 trillion debt, and budget analysts said the party was glossing over the difficulty of carrying out its ideas, especially when sharp spending cuts could impede an already weak economic recovery.

The second is that the kind of cuts the GOP has in mind almost certainly won’t happen.

The House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, has called for immediate cuts in “non-security discretionary” spending to prerecession 2008 levels. Independent analysts say that would require eliminating about $105 billion — or more than 20 percent of spending by departments like Education, Transportation, Interior, Commerce and Energy -0 a level of reductions that history suggests would be extremely hard to execute. (Since 1982, nonmilitary discretionary spending has never dropped by more than 5.5 percentage points in any given year.)

The third is that the idea of cuts is intended to bolster Republicans’ credibility on fiscal responsibility, but the GOP doesn’t want to cut spending to lower the deficit; it wants to cut spending while slashing taxes by $4 trillion — all of which would be deficit financed.

At the same time, most Republicans are calling for the permanent extension of all Bush-era tax cuts, which would add $700 billion more to the deficit over the next 10 years than President Obama and Democratic leaders have proposed by continuing only some of the lower rates.

And finally, there’s the inconvenient fact that Republicans believe the federal budget is a huge mess, but seem to overlook the fact that it’s a mess they created.

The parties share blame for the current fiscal situation, but federal budget statistics show that Republican policies over the last decade, and the cost of the two wars, added far more to the deficit than initiatives approved by the Democratic Congress since 2006, giving voters reason to be skeptical of campaign promises.

Calculations by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other independent fiscal experts show that the $1.1 trillion cost over the next 10 years of the Medicare prescription drug program, which the Republican-controlled Congress adopted in 2003, by itself would add more to the deficit than the combined costs of the bailout, the stimulus and the health care law.

Read that last sentence again. For all the over-the-top whining about the costs of health care reform, the Recovery Act, and the financial industry rescue, all of those costs combined are less than the Republicans’ prescription-drug bill (which was passed under corrupt circumstances, and which the GOP didn’t even try to pay for). For that matter, if Republicans successfully repealed the Affordable Care Act, that would make the budget outlook even worse, since health care reform reduces the deficit.

Just a little something to keep in mind as Republican candidates lecture voters about how responsible they are with the public’s money.