11/13/2011

Those Obstructionist Republicans

Republicans stink.

This, in a nutshell, is what Democrats are running on in 2012.

Republicans are mean. They're obstructionists. They don't care about the elderly and they don't care about the middle class. They're dangerous ideologues looking out only for the rich.

The country faces serious economic challenges and catastrophic debt. Homes are worthless, jobs are scarce and collapsing European social-welfare states are providing frightening previews of what Americans can expect if Washington doesn't dial back its deficit spending.

But Democrats are unwilling to engage in serious, honest debate about their vision for the country. Instead, they just criticize Republicans.

What's even more repulsive than this juvenile approach to governance and campaigning? The fact that a huge chunk of the electorate actually buys it. If there's a lesson in all this, one year before Americans go to the polls to again decide the direction of the country, it's that the substance of your ideas doesn't matter if your opponent controls the public's perception of them.

And this country is in desperate need of ideas. Here's a taste of the economic perils America faces:

-- Last year's federal budget deficit was $1.3 trillion. Total spending was $3.6 trillion, up 34 percent from the $2.7 trillion spent just four years ago.

-- The national debt has reached $15 trillion, 101 percent of gross domestic product. Italy, with debt totaling 120 percent of GDP, is roiling global markets.

-- Entitlements and interest on the national debt account for two-thirds of federal spending. Social Security and Medicare are actuarially insolvent. Social Security is paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. Entitlements are in line to consume all federal revenues in less than 40 years.

-- Without major tax reforms or other congressional action, federal taxes will skyrocket over the next 13 months. The Bush tax cuts will expire, sending all income tax rates higher. The marriage penalty will return, and the reach of the alternative minimum tax will expand. Deductions for state and local sales taxes, mortgage insurance, student loan interest, tuition and other expenses will end. Capital gains and dividends levies will jump. Tax credits for families and businesses will disappear, and new ObamaCare surcharges on the wealthy will take effect. All this with 9 percent unemployment.

House Republicans have passed a budget -- something Democrats didn't do when they controlled both houses of Congress in 2009 and 2010 -- that addresses most of the government's biggest fiscal problems. It reduces future budget deficits by gradually dialing back spending. It reforms Medicare by providing future beneficiaries with private insurance premium support and means-tested benefits. And it reforms income taxes by reducing rates and eliminating deductions.

Democrats have eviscerated the plan, championed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, as one that ends Medicare, collapses the social safety net and cuts taxes for the rich (even though the Ryan budget eliminates deductions that overwhelmingly favor the rich).

It's simply not possible to make meaningful reductions in the budget deficit without addressing the growing costs of entitlements.

The Democrats' plan? There isn't one, though their talking points emphasize more of the same. More spending. No entitlement reforms. More tax hikes.

Because Republicans generally oppose raising taxes on anyone while the economy is down, they've been tarred as defenders of the rich. Because the GOP opposes more Keynesian, "stimulus"-style deficit spending, they've been labeled obstructionists for rejecting President Obama's cynical "jobs" bill.

In fact, meetings of the congressional Stupor Committee on deficit reduction reveal that Democrats are the obstructionist ideologues. The six Republicans on the committee offered $500 billion in tax increases over 10 years in exchange for $750 billion in spending cuts. The tax increases would be achieved through tax reforms much like the ones in the Ryan budget. Most of the cuts would be realized by reducing the rate of growth of benefit payments.

But Democrats on the supercommittee have rejected the Republican offer, insisting on $1 trillion in tax hikes. They say tax reform must include higher tax rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was asked if he was encouraged by the supercommittee negotiations. "With that phony deal the Republicans offered? No," he said. Keep in mind, President Obama's own bipartisan deficit-reduction commission (the one he ignored) called for $3 in federal spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases, as well as a broader, simplified tax code.

Why would Democrats make a deal when demonizing the GOP is paying such political dividends? When the supercommittee fails, Democrats will say it's the Republicans' fault, and the Mainstream Media will report it.  Democrats ran as fiscal conservatives in 2006 and 2008, then blew the budget as soon as they gained power. They can't run on their records. They can't run on a platform of ever more spending. So instead they deny responsibility. No tough choices will be made. Those who have theirs will keep getting it, and then some.

The GOP agenda isn't perfect, but the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging that one exists. The longer we wait to act, the more difficult and desperate the choices will get.