House GOP trips up on spending cut figure it could have corrected long ago

Republicans took control of the House last fall based on commitments to slash government spending, yet even as they basked in their rise to power Wednesday, they were already under fire for reducing the amount of spending they plan to cut right away.

Republican leaders such as Paul Ryan of Wisconsin took to the airwaves early in the day to deny that they were retreating on spending cuts, following reports Tuesday that the cuts would be $50 billion instead of $100 billion.

Ryan’s explanation of why the number went down was plausible, but also technical and legalistic-sounding. It likely did little to alter the perception for many grassroots conservatives whose busy lives allow sometimes only a few moments a day to pay attention to headlines. The lesson for those absorbing at a glance: Republicans were already letting them down.

The facts on the spending cut change prove to be far less harmful for the GOP than the way it appears. And if the party is aggressive enough in pushing out their explanation, the political damage from this episode could be kept small.

But it needn’t have happened in the first place. Staffers and communicators at the highest levels of House Republican leadership could have prevented the $100 billion figure from taking hold in the media as the commitment they were making to cut.

Instead, they apparently failed to nail down what a promise to trim spending to 2008 levels meant in dollars and cents when they were set to take power this month. Consequently they perpetuated a faulty figure up until recent days, pushing it out even in the last two weeks.

As a result, Tea Party spokespersons – whose opinions must be considered with the caveat that they are speaking for a broad-based and leaderless movement – nonetheless voiced an opinion that would be of grave concern to the GOP if it were catching on.

“I actually don’t think it would be possible to fall from grace any faster than this,” Mark Meckler, with the Tea Party Patriots, told The Daily Caller.

A few House Republican aides admitted to TheDC that the party had slipped up in failing to correct the $100 billion figure – first thrown out in the “Pledge to America” document released in late September – before this week.

Other Republican staffers ignored questions about the error. A few argued the same thing as Ryan and other lawmakers: the $100 billion in cuts was an accurate number when the GOP first issued their pledge in September.

They tried to focus attention on what they said was the larger and more important promise to reduce spending to 2008 levels. It was the level, not the figure, that mattered, they said.

Republicans said the $100 billion figure applied in September but is smaller now because the budget year started in October, and so cutting the current budget to 2008 levels now is doing so with a less than whole piece of the budget pie, since three months of spending is already out the door.

“We are halfway through the fiscal year right now. So the problem is half the spending cats are already out of the bag, and that is why that number has become compromised,” Ryan said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We’re still going to bring spending down to the level that we said we would bring spending at,” Ryan said. “But the savings you achieve from doing so halfway through the fiscal year isn’t as great as it was when we were talking about this a year ago.”

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  • craigiri

    Here’s the way it works.
    If they cut only 50 dollars, their base will be behind them. After all, 50 dollars here and 50 dollars there….you know, it adds up!

    People WANT to believe in their fantasies – heck, look at creationism and heaven/hell. Between the two of those, over 1/2 of Americans believe. It seems we have a government who reflects the population – that is, they engage in fantasy instead of facing reality.

    But can you blame them? After all, since the world in likely to END (according to MANY in the GOP) quite soon, why bother with future generations?

    Meanwhile, the center and left in this country actually understand that future generations WILL be here and that the world will not end in a clasp of thunder. Therefore they try to institute policies which help people and insure domestic tranquility, happiness, etc.

    But, according to the right, that is BAD STUFF.

    Make any sense?

    • theprofessor

      “engage in fantasy instead of facing reality.”

      Up your meds, maybe that’ll help.

  • dandapani

    STOP THE SPENDING and quit arguing about a number. Cut, cut, cut.

  • annbiz

    Ground Air Force One for the next Two Years! With that done, and Pelosi not jet-setting on our dime….we will see a big dent in the deficit.

  • jbotts

    Fred Thompson brought up a good point on his radio show. He said to never take a hostage you aren’t willing to shoot. Remember, GOP only controls house. Their budgets have to pass the senate and be signed by the chief executive. They get too greedy too fast and Obama decides to call their bluff the GOP will have to decide between:

    1) Government shutdown
    2) Backing down

    The second of the two is totally awful, the GOP looses all political momentum if it comes to pass.

    I’m not totally opposed to outcome number 1, but for some reason all of the slower students (middle of the road wishy washy independents) have a hard time with it.

    Obama says we need to cut the deficit, fine! Make him prove it. Lower the budget by 100 Billion dollars in FY 2011, and let the WH decide what gets cut. Then do it again in 2012. Hopefully in FY 2013 we have a Republican president and we can really get serious.

    It is unrealistic to think we can hit a bases empty 6 run home run just controlling the house.

  • notalone

    cut the dept of education wasteful budget plus the additional race to the top funds which, if I recall correctly, they just added another 1.3 billion to that. The only ones that win in that are the administrators. Our children are just being used and they are totally left behind.

  • coling

    I propose that reducing Federal spending to 2008 levels does not go far enough. This Congress needs to be bold and achieve permanent CHANGE!

    Quoting from a Cato Institute “Not So Great Depression” article in the January 7, 2009 edition of National Review Online:

    “Federal spending was cut from $6.3 billion in 1920 to $5 billion in 1921 and $3.2 billion in 1922. Federal taxes fell from $6.6 billion in 1920 to $5.5 billion in 1921 and $4 billion in 1922. Harding’s policies started a trend. The low point for federal taxes was reached in 1924; for federal spending, in 1925. The federal government paid off debt, which had been $24.2 billion in 1920, and it continued to decline until 1930.”

    The Roaring 20’s resulted! Can this Congress do the same?

    I propose that combining both Paul Ryan’s Roadmap and DownsizingGovernment.org is not enough. While the trillion dollar cut of Cato Institute is a lot of money, I propose there is much more to cut. The results (note not actions but results) of Harding and Coolidge should be the target for the 2011 House and Senate.

    • craigiri

      >>The roaring 20’s resulted……

      That is laughable.
      First of all, the roaring 20’s was largely a PARTY…..which was the result of the happiness at the end of the “war to end all wars”…
      “The phrase was meant to emphasize the period’s social, artistic, and cultural dynamism”….
      That means short dresses, flapper girls, party hardy and….of course….lots of BIG money made from illegal booze. Watch a bit of Boardwalk Empire (based loosely on real events) to get an idea of what Republicans were doing in the 20’s.

      Jazz was a bit part of the roaring 20’s – yes, that music that dope smoking black people invented….not much to do with the GOP.

      The roaring 20’s was also about URBANIZATION – New York and Chicago, here we come! Again, not exactly the “fly over middle America” chant of the GOP….who hate people that live in cities (or say they do).

      The roaring 20’s – in terms of economics – was closer to the Bush years….that is, a complete turning over of our government to the corporations. As Calvin Coolidge said then “The chief business of the American people is business”…..

      AND, that is what caused the Great Depression……the handing over of all control to the big corporate interests. Now we HAD history repeat itself – Bush, Cheny and their oil and GOP friends turned the country over to business, did away with regulations in force since the Great Depression….and BROKE US. Luckily, we barely avoid another complete depression, no thanks to the GOP congress…….

      Rewriting history must be fun. The problem is, the textbooks and history books are already written…and internet rants all go away soon.

      • theprofessor

        It’s not apparent what “textbooks” or “history books” you read, but you really should have done it sober.

        “(based loosely on real events) ”

        Describes your posts perfectly.