Earlier today in Cleveland, House Republican Leader John Boehner delivered a speech framing the central themes of the GOP's campaign to retake control of Congress and deliver him the Speaker's gavel. In the speech, Boehner presented five different priorities, each of them structured as a demand on President Obama. In order of delivery, Boehner identified his priorities as:
- Extend Bush tax cuts for wealthy.
- Pledge to veto EFCA or energy reform legislation passed by Congress after the November election but before the new Congress.
- Tell Democrats to support the GOP's effort to repeal a provision of the health care law that Boehner claims would require businesses to itemize all expenditures over $600. (Note that Republicans actually blocked a vote to repeal the mandate in House and the small jobs bill in the Senate, currently being blocked by the GOP, is also a vehicle for repeal.)
- Submit a massive spending reduction package to Congress.
- Fire his entire economic team.
The thing about that list is that there isn't a single thing about what Republicans would actually do. It's just a list of demands on President Obama and except for the first one -- in which Boehner demands Obama extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy -- they are purely rhetorical in nature.
To be fair to Boehner, in the conclusion of his speech he actually does circle back to his fourth point -- the one on spending reduction -- and offers some specifics to flesh out his plan.
Republicans on the House Budget Committee, led by Congressman Paul Ryan, have already identified $1.3 trillion in specific spending cuts that could be implemented immediately.
These are common-sense steps – like canceling unspent ‘stimulus’ and TARP bailout funds – that put the brakes on Washington’s out-of-control spending spree.
Obviously, two sentences really isn't that specific when it comes to outlining spending cut proposals, but at least it references a specific plan -- Ryan's -- and mentions two programs (the stimulus and TARP). Of course, Boehner would like you to forget that he actually voted for TARP and with respect to the stimulus, canceling it would require raising taxes since one-third of the package consisted of tax cuts.
As for Ryan's plan, Boehner is endorsing a proposal that would:
- Eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program and replace them with vouchers to defray the cost of private health insurance.
- Pay for partially privatizing Social Security by cutting benefits to 1950 levels when half of elderly Americans lived below the poverty line.
- Cut taxes in half for the wealthiest 1% of Americans, including an average cut of $502,000 per year for families earning more than $1 million and $1.7 million per year for the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans. These tax cuts would be on top of the Bush cuts, if made permanent.
- Raise taxes on families earning between $25,000 and $200,000 by an average of $900 per year (relative to a continuation of current tax rates).
Despite positioning itself as a plan for fiscal austerity, the Ryan roadmap wouldn't actually solve our long-term budget problems. Why? Because he simply doesn't count the cost of his tax cuts when calculating his proposals final price tag.
In other words, far from being some brilliant new innovation, Ryan's Roadmap is basically the same sort of economic mumbo-jumbo peddled for years by the Bush administration and conservative Republicans.
And it's now the centerpiece of John Boehner's economic platform as he campaigns for Speaker, which brings us back to the central question voters will face this November: do they want to allow Democrats to continue trying to revive the economy, or do they want to give up on the Dems and go back to the Bush economic policies of the Republican Party?