off the charts
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
The most terrifying result of the debt ceiling crisis is not the deal itself — with its tight discretionary caps, its special joint committee that Republicans already are saying they won’t allow to raise any revenues, and its potential for arbitrary across-the-board cuts. Instead, it’s the precedent that Republican congressional leaders say the crisis has established. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on the Senate floor today that this “creates an entirely new template for raising the national debt limit.” As he explained on CNBC last night, “In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore.” In his Senate floor speech, McConnell noted that Washington will have to raise the debt limit again in early 2013. He promised that he and others will seek to use that event once again to shrink “the size and scope of government.” Ohio’s Rob Portman, one of the most influential Republican senators on budget issues, and Paul Ryan, the powerful House Budget Committee chair, clarified what Republican leaders have in mind, indicating that the new standard should be a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar that the debt ceiling is raised. In a blog post today, Ryan argues that the agreement, “establish[es] a clear precedent that any future debt limit increases must be matched by an even larger cut in government spending.” If maintained over a number of years, such a dollar-for-dollar standard ultimately would decimate much of the federal government. Consider:
- Under House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget — which cuts non-security discretionary programs one-third by 2021 (relative to last year’s funding levels adjusted for inflation), slashes Medicaid by $1.4 trillion over ten years, cuts food stamps and Pell Grants by over $100 billion each, and cuts total spending by more than $4 trillion — the debt ceiling would still have to be raised more than $6 trillion over the coming decade above the increase enacted today.
- In other words, applying a dollar-for-dollar standard to all future debt limit increases would require trillions of dollars in additional cuts on top of the massive cuts already in the Ryan budget — and make the Ryan budget look like a piker by comparison.
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