Fools on the Hill
Thursday 02 April 2009
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist
Republican Congress members released their version of the 2010 budget on April 1, 2009. (Photo: AP)
Day after day,
Alone on a hill,
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him,
They can see that he's just a fool,
And he never gives an answer
- The Beatles
The Republicans unveiled their alternative budget proposal on April Fools' Day. No, seriously, they did. One has to assume there was an enterprising young GOP congressional staffer with his head in his hands somewhere on Capitol Hill on Wednesday because he just got fired for not quite understanding the awful humor of the timing.
This latest GOP proposal comes on the heels of yet another GOP debacle last week, when Republicans first announced the release of their budgetary answer to the Obama administration plan. At the time, they called it a detailed program, but wound up releasing to the press only an 18-page pamphlet with no details whatsoever on what their budget proposal actually involved. "Reporters - mainstream, liberal and conservative - greeted the Republican document," reported Ryan Grim in The Huffington Post on March 26, "with a collective scoff."
Mark Murray, writing on the same day for NBC News, reported, "Yesterday, House Republicans made a pretty big deal about unveiling their budget alternative. In fact, we received this email from a House GOP spokeswoman, 'Given the President's comments [Tuesday] night that, "we haven't seen a budget out of [Republicans]"' we wanted to make sure to make you all aware that we are introducing our Republican Budget Alternative tomorrow.' And then what happens today? House Republicans release a 19-page document that contains no hard spending numbers or deficit projections."
Just in time for April Fools' Day, and in time for congressional debate on the Obama administration's non-pamphletized budget proposal, comes the "details" GOP members failed to supply last week. Virtually every element contained within is a bad rehash of all the failed Republican ideas from the last couple of decades. In short, it's like the return of a bad headache: smaller government, lower taxes, drill everything, and trust us.
Specifically, the new GOP budget proposal involves killing the recently-passed stimulus package in 2010, killing the Obama administration's budget proposal outright, placing a freeze on all non-defense and non-veteran spending, privatizing Medicare, cutting corporate tax rates to 25 percent, and increasing offshore oil drilling.
The GOP plan to privatize Medicare, specifically, has inspired hoots from virtually every corner. Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo reported on Wednesday that, "This is an idea that's been kicking around in conservative circles for some time, and it's an expensive one. Well, it's expensive unless you're an insurance company, in which case it's extremely lucrative. The goal is to phase out Medicare over time by providing new seniors with the same health insurance options available under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The FEHBP provides relatively high quality care, and most working-aged people would probably prefer its options over the ones provided by their employers. But Medicare provides similar quality of care while containing the cost of treating elderly, and those costs would rise if they were outsourced to private insurance companies."
The White House responded to the Republican budget proposal with barely-concealed glee. Austan Goolsbee, a member of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, told MSNBC that, "thought it was most appropriate that this thing came out on April Fools' Day because this thing is the biggest April Fools' Joke and cruelest that we have had in years. If you look at what they are doing ... they are calling for putting in a multi-trillion dollar additional tax cut for the highest income Americans, they are now talking about privatizing Medicare turning it into a voucher so that they can cut it substantially. That's not the reform of an entitlement - it is the gutting of a program."
Just to be clear, a spending freeze would further drive down the economy. The annihilation of Medicare would harm millions of Americans. Tax cuts for the wealthy are a pipe-dream financial fix that has never worked, and the rest of the GOP's proposals came out of the same broken toy-box that gave us all the wonderful economic insanity we currently enjoy.
They released it on April Fools' Day. Frankly, 'nuff said.
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