Dealing With Budget Myths

Jeff Sessions’ website posted a statement Congressman Sessions made before Congress yesterday detailing some of the problems in reaching agreement on the debt ceiling.  Some excerpts from the statement:

First, I would like to address the myth that the president has a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The only plan the White House has ever put on paper is his February budget, which doubles our national debt.

The president has never put a single spending cut plan on paper and he has no proposal to slash the deficit. If he does, it’s a closely guarded secret. And if such a secret plan does exist it should be made public this very afternoon. I’d like to see it. I’m sure millions of Americans feel the same.

We also have no debt plan from Senate Democrats. In fact, they haven’t even passed a budget in 813 days.

As of now, there is only one debt limit plan on paper. Only one plan available for public scrutiny and review. That’s the plan we are debating today: cut, cap, and balance. It cuts spending immediately, it caps it so it doesn’t go up, and it requires the passage of a balanced budget amendment to ensure Washington ends the deficit spending once and for all. The American people do not trust Washington to pass some grand budget deal with tax hikes that never go away and spending cuts that never materialize.

They are wise to the gimmicks and accounting tricks. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation requiring 7 days to review any bill increasing the debt limit.

In fact, Washington Democrats are resisting cut, cap, and balance because they know there’s no gimmick or accounting trick to get around it.

If this becomes law, Washington will have to end the spending spree. There will be no other option. These are the responsible choices families, cities, and states make every year.

In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley oversaw an across-the-board cut of 15 percent from the General Fund in the current year because of a constitutional prohibition on deficit spending. For next year, he has proposed cuts of up to 45 percent for some state agencies. Unlike the federal government, our state is legally obligated to live within its means.

Another myth I’d like to address is the idea that our current budget crisis is the result of two wars and a tax cut. Let’s consider that claim. The total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, over the entire last decade, is $1.3 trillion. Again, that’s over the last decade. This year alone the deficit is expected to be $1.4 trillion dollars. War costs represent only 4 percent of total outlays over the last ten years. The total amount of money spent since the president took office is $8.5 trillion dollars. By the end of his first three years in office we will have added $5 trillion to our gross federal debt. We are borrowing almost half of what we’re spending every single day. In the last two years, non-defense discretionary spending has soared 24 percent. The stimulus package alone–enacted into law in a single day in 2009–cost more than the entire war in Iraq. Annual spending when President Bush took office was less than $2 trillion. Today, it’s almost $4 trillion. It will be almost $6 trillion by the end of the decade.

There is only one honest answer to the question over why our debt is rising so fast: out-of-control domestic spending.

Another myth that’s circulating which I’d like to address concerns the budget summary from the Gang of Six. The authors of the summary claim that their approach would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion. But my staff on the Budget Committee can only find $1.2 trillion in reduced spending, along with a tax increase of $1 trillion. Where does the other $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction come from? Chairman Conrad, one of the members of the Gang of Six, even says the outline has a $1.5 trillion tax cut. But this is compared against a baseline that assumes a $3.5 trillion tax increase. It’s just an accounting gimmick. The real cost of the tax changes could be an increase as large as $2 trillion.

This is why we need more than a handout–we need legislative text.

I realize that is a lot to read, but it is the best summary of where we are now that I have seen.  I know there are reports that a deal is in the works, so the facts on the ground may change quickly.  I understand that the Republicans only control one half of one house of the government.  I also understand that according to the surveys I have seen, two-thirds of the American people support spending cuts–not tax increases.  Two-thirds of Americans also support not raising the debt ceiling, which I think is a bad idea.  I understand the frustration that would cause people to be against raising the debt ceiling, but I don’t believe that that is the answer.  I don’t expect a perfect deal, but I am looking for immediate spending cuts.  Just as an additional bit of information, the federal deficit at the end of 2008 was $10,024,724.  As of the end of 2010, the federal deficit was $13,561,623.  That is considerable growth in two years.

One thing to remember in this debate is that the government brings in about 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in tax revenue.  President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have a goal of increasing the federal budget from the 20 percent it has averaged in the past to 25 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.  Unless taxes are significantly increased, which may or may not increase revenue, that is not a workable long-term business plan.