A Pox on One of Their Houses

By Begala, Paul | Newsweek, February 22, 2013 | Go to article overview
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A Pox on One of Their Houses


Begala, Paul, Newsweek


Byline: Paul Begala

No, the sequester isn't both parties' fault.

In a column on the budget, to maintain credibility with Beltway elites, I am supposed to claim the impasse is both parties' fault. It isn't. The conventional wisdom is that Republicans won't support any more tax increases and Democrats won't support any more spending cuts. That's half right.

House Democrats have proposed some sensible spending cuts: like doing away with the billions we spend subsidizing oil companies. With gas nearing $4 a gallon, does anyone really want to send taxpayers' money to the welfare queens of ExxonMobil? House Dems would also enact the Buffett rule (I prefer "Romney rule"), ending the obscenity in the tax code that lets hedge-fund managers pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

Not to be outdone, Senate Democrats have proposed $110 billion in spending cuts and tax increases: again, reducing oil subsidies (though not as much as the House Dems), ending the deduction businesses take for moving jobs overseas, and trimming the defense budget and farm subsidies.

Finally, the White House boasts of having eliminated 77 government programs, including 16 at the Department of Education, 10 at Health and Human Services, and 4 at Labor. The president's budget calls for $30 billion in cuts to farm programs and $25 billion in savings from the post office.

The Republicans, for their part, did allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on income over $450,000, but they seem to have dug in their heels on the Romney rule and oil subsidies. They are blaming President Obama's "failed leadership" for the sequester and arguing that it was the White House that first proposed the gun-to-the-head approach. As the kids say, whatevs. The Democrats have come to the table with spending cuts. Will the Republicans join them and support some tax increases? Um, no. "Just last month," House Speaker John Boehner said, "the president got his higher taxes on the wealthy, and he's already back for more." True. But there is still some very low-hanging fruit on the revenue side. Republicans ought to at least embrace the Romney rule--if for no other reason than to punish Mitt for running such a lame campaign.

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