They ran on a platform almost exclusively about shrinking government and America's $14-trillion debt. And they got elected, sweeping the House with 63 seats and six Senate pick-ups. But since election day, ask any Republican in the House and Senate exactly which government programs they plan to cut in order to cut the $1.3-trillion deficit and they become back-peddling rambling idiots, offering more spin than the washer/dryer section at Sear's.
Sunday morning's news shows, the first since Democrats received what President Obama called a "shellacking," were awash with partisan rhetoric about swollen debt, angry voters and "taking the country back." But substance was in short order.
On NBC's Meet the Press, host David Gregory hammered South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint to be specific in detailing the programs Republicans would slash, in particular, whether they'd touch defense and/or entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. DeMint was clearly uncomfortable with being put on the spot, and after repeated dodging and regurgitating endless talking points, Gregory persisted in pressing him for specifics. Again, DeMint fidgeted and cleared his throat so much I thought they'd wheel in an oxygen tank.
It's like a disease. I've not seen one Republican leader, from DeMint to Rep. John Boehner to Rep. Eric Cantor to Sen. Mitch McConnell, answer the "which specific programs would you cut" question with a straight answer. That's because their campaign platform was based on smoke and mirrors and disingenuous politicking. All designed to dupe a frustrated, angry and desperate electorate. The truth is, they won't cut defense spending, they won't touch Social Security and Medicare, and they won't touch veterans benefits, which they all admit.
Let's put the numbers in perspective: the Unites States budget is $3.6-trillion. Approximately $2.2-trillion, or 61%, goes to fund Social Security, Medicare and defense. The remainder is split between the following: 14% to safety-net programs that aid struggling Americans (i.e. food stamps, child-care assistance and unemployment insurance); Vets/federal retirees 7%; transportation infrastructure 3%; education 3%; scientific and medical research 2%; and 5% misc. Another 6% goes toward interest payments on the debt. So if you take the major entitlements, defense and veterans off the table, as well as the debt service, that leaves about 16% in discretionary spending, or $576-billion available for cuts. Not a lot to work with especially given all the fiery campaign rhetoric about the GOP's magical fix on the economy through reduced spending and big cuts.
Now here's the kicker: throw in a loss of $700-billion over 10 years which the government would lose in revenue if the Bush tax cuts are extended for those earning over $250,000--which the GOP is aggressively pushing for--and that's a whole lotta fuzzy math.
To be sure, Republicans are quite good a spin. Much better than Democrats. After eight years of runaway spending during the Bush years, where the GOP controlled both the House and Senate for most of that time, they quite successfully convinced voters last week that they were the fiscally-responsible party who should again be given back the controls to reign in Obama's and the Democrats' excessive spending. Voters apparently have very short memories. And as the above numbers prove out, Republicans' promise of smaller government and cutting the deficit and debt is a promise they won't be able to keep.