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General News    H3'ed 4/2/09

GOP Budget Little More than "Talking Points," Says White House

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Producing an alternative to the Obama budget plan has been something of a fiasco for congressional Republicans. They began in February by debating the scope of the Obama budget, criticizing the spending growth and inherited deficits as if President Obama created the problems facing the country.

Since the president challenged them to produce an alternative budget at a press conference in mid-March, however, GOP leaders have struggled to produce a coherent budget based on realistic estimates.

Last week, congressional Republicans released an 18-page document they billed as a budget, but which did nothing but outline their party's political philosophy. It did not do what normal budgets do: offer legislative proposals attached to actual math regarding revenues and outlays. Presenting the party pamphlet at a Capitol Hill press conference, GOP leaders promised to deliver an actual budget this week.

Released today, April 1st, the more detailed GOP budget estimates prompted one White House budget office spokesperson to describe it as an "April Fools joke."

Early analysis of the Republican budget alternative suggests that their plan is based on pretending that neither the economic stimulus package nor the 2009 budget omnibus bill were passed in Congress – or at least that they will be repealed somehow. Their proposal is to freeze all spending at 2008 levels, even as billions of dollars are heading to states to create jobs, shore up state budgets, keep schools open, fix roads and bridges, expand unemployment benefits for the growing numbers of jobless workers and provide some key health care modernization.

The deficit projections in the Republican budget appear to be based on the impossible fantasy that the first three months of this year and the year-long recession never happened.

According to one observer, the GOP budget completely slashes spending for education, public safety and health care implemented in the recovery package and the 2009 congressional appropriations.

The GOP plan would also eliminate the tax cut for working families that went into effect today as part of the stimulus package and replace it with a new massive capital gains tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, reported

In addition, the Republican plan would privatize Medicare and freeze spending for seniors and disabled beneficiaries of the program without keeping up with growing health care costs.

Republicans also appear to have rejected the popular demand for health care reform altogether. Their budget proposal makes no allowances for controlling high health care costs or expanding access for the 47 million Americans who lack health care coverage.

White House Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Rob Nabors told reporters Wednesday that the GOP budget plan amounted to a "series of talking points." "I don't think [the GOP budget] was designed as a plan that could be implemented in this country," Nabors said.

"I think that this is just an effort for them to be able to say that we can magically create more deficit reduction than President Obama," he added. "But if you actually take a look at what they are proposing to do, it doesn't actually accomplish anything, because the pieces just don't hold together."

The Republican plan signals that GOP leaders have learned no lessons since the popular rejection of their economic policies in the November election. "I don't think there's a better example of the differences between where the president is and the new direction he is trying to set and the failed policies of the past," Nabors argued. "It's not even clear to me that the budget the Republicans are putting forward is going to have the full support of all of their members."

A Washington Post poll released yesterday revealed that two in three Americans approve of the job the president is doing and trust him by more than two-to-one over the Republicans to handle economic issues.
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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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