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Where Did John Boehner Get These Numbers?

24 Feb 2009
Posted by Stan Collender

House Minority Leader John Boehner put out a press release yesterday that makes little sense.  And that's being kind.

Here's the text:

Washington, Feb 23 - As Washington leaders gather for a White House summit on fiscal responsibility, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and other House Republican leaders today wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), calling for a federal spending freeze and urging Democratic congressional leaders to scrap a massive bill that contains the largest increase in non-entitlement spending since the Carter Administration. Congress should scrap the so-called “omnibus” bill, which has been kept hidden from public scrutiny by Democratic leaders, and instead pass clean legislation that holds the line on federal spending, Republican leaders said.

“President Obama has called for both parties to get serious about fiscal responsibility. With our budget deficit potentially reaching $3 trillion this year, Republicans stand ready to work with him, and we believe we should start right now,” Boehner said. “Democratic congressional leaders should abandon their plans to rush another giant spending increase through Congress without public scrutiny, and instead pass a clean bill that freezes spending at current levels. Republicans stand ready to work with our Democratic colleagues and the President to take this first step toward a new standard of fiscal discipline in Washington.”

“Weeks ago House Republicans asked Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer to put this giant spending bill online so the American people would have adequate time to review it. Unfortunately, they declined. And on Friday, it was revealed that the bill congressional Democrats have been withholding from public view contains the largest discretionary spending increase since the Carter Administration, at a time when the federal budget deficit is already ballooning to dangerous levels,” Boehner said. “Democratic congressional leaders are reportedly rushing this bill to a vote this week, just days after passing a trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ spending bill that no Member of Congress had even read. This is not fiscal responsibility; it is fiscal negligence, paid for by our children and grandchildren. We must change course, and we must do it in a bipartisan manner.”

NOTE: The giant spending bill kept under wraps by Democratic leaders would fund the nine uncompleted Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations bills that the Democratic Congress did not send to the President last year. Many taxpayer advocates argue that instead of rolling the nine appropriations bills into one giant “omnibus” bill that increases federal spending on an array of programs and projects at a time of growing budget deficits, Congress should simply pass a resolution that holds government spending at current levels.

The first questionable number is in this sentence: "With our budget deficit potentially reaching $3 trillion this year..." The Congressional Budget Office estimated in January, that is, before the stimulus bill was enacted, that the fiscal 2009 deficit would be $1.2 trillion.  The stimulus bill was estimated to add another almost $200 billion.  Even if you assume that the economy will deteriorate further, that more government action will be needed, etc., it's hard to see how Boehner gets from $1.4 trillion or so to $3 trillion.  In fact, at this point almost five months into fiscal 2009, it's hard to imagine what could be enacted that would spend that much more or tax that much less in such a short period of time unless we're going to hire people to stand on street corners handing out $100 bills.

The second number that boggles the mind is this: "...a massive bill that contains the largest increase in non-entitlement spending since the Carter Administration." Boehner is talking about the appropriations bill or bills that need to be adopted by March 6 when the current continuing resolution expires.  Again, I can't imagine how Boehner is coming up with the numbers to support his "largest increase" claim unless he's comparing the amount that will be included in the bill to what would be spent if there were no bill at all, that is, if the domestic departments and agencies covered by these appropriations were shut down.  The increase over the previous year is actually likely to be relatively small.

(It's not suprising that Boehner wouldn't use the phrase "shutdown."  That word has gone largely unspoken by Republicans in Washington since the GOP took it on the chin politically during the shutdowns in the mid-1990s.)

Finally, note this very clever wording: "...largest increase in non-entitlement spending...(italics are mine)" The largest increase in entitlement spending since Carter occured during the George W. Bush administration when Medicare Part D was passed by a GOP House and Senate majority and signed by a Republican president.  And the increase in non-entitlement spending for activities in Iraq and Afghanistan dwarfs anything that will be included in this bill.

Finally, it's hard not chuckle when in the last paragraph Boehner first takes the Democratic leadership to task for using an omnibus bill instead of indivdual appropriations and then recommends "...a resolution that holds government spending at current levels..."  In other words, he's advocating a, you guessed it, omnibus bill.


Boehner's comment

Senator Boehner has such difficulty with the new budget because it affects "his" pocketbook, in the way of tax hikes for the wealthy. These Republicans have enjoyed extreme benefits from the Bush administration for the past 8 years, while the rest of middleclass Americans have been struggling. Me thinks he dost protest too much. I call it sour grapes......the RNC has lost its power in Washington and are making it difficult for the current President to help the rest of America.

I say to Senator Boehner "Wake UP" and realize the the days of Republican spending and big tax breaks for the wealthy are gone!

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