As we've seen over the last few weeks, Kevin McCarthy is an incredibly weak speaker who succumbed to the most extreme members of his caucus in order to gain power. And now those forces have laid down the gauntlet: they plan to refuse to raise the debt limit unless they get major reductions in spending.
But as Catherine Rampell points out - the speaker has a math problem.
Republicans say they want lower deficits — in fact, they have pledged to balance the budget (that is, no deficit at all) within seven or 10 years. But they have not laid out any plausible mathematical path for arriving at that destination. They promise to cut “wasteful spending” ... but can’t agree on what counts as “waste."...In short, virtually every possible avenue available for reducing the deficit would be unpopular. Which probably explains why supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans chose not to take them when they controlled both houses of Congress during Trump’s presidency.
This is a breakdown of what Republicans have to work with:
- 62% of federal spending is on "mandatory programs" like Social Security and Medicare,
- 30% of federal spending is on "discretionary programs" - with military spending accounting for about half that amount, and
- 8% of federal spending is on interest payments.
Leader Schumer: "I say to my Republican colleagues, if you want to want to talk about deep cuts, then you have an obligation to show the American people precisely what kind of cuts are you talking about."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 25, 2023
"Let the American people see and assess the cuts for themselves."
For his part, McCarthy is spending his time whining about the fact that Biden won't negotiate with him. The Speaker might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he's smart enough to know that he has zero consensus within his own caucus about where to cut spending and that, even if he was able to put a proposal on the table, the vast majority of voters would hate it. So he wants to pass that buck to Biden.
The bottom line is that McCarthy is threatening to hold our economy hostage for spending cuts that he won't identify. Oh wait...he did mention one thing.
“Does defense getting more than $800 billion, are there areas that I think they could be more efficient in? Yeah. Eliminate all the money spent on ‘wokeism.’ Eliminate all the money that they’re trying to find different fuels and they’re worried about the environment to go through,” McCarthy added. “I want our men and women trained to be able to defend themselves, to secure, to have the best weapons systems possible.”
That statement sums up the GOP agenda in a nutshell. When it trouble - use the word "wokism." Then hide behind "patriotism" to defend your ultimate constituency - the fossil fuel industry.
It was during the Obama administration that DOD decided to "go green." That wasn't a political move, but a plan to address a national security threat. Here's what Lt Gen (ret) Norman R. Seip, USAF wrote about that in 2014:
Energy is the lifeblood of the military, and our armed forces remain heavily reliant upon fossil fuels. In combat zones, everything on a forward-operating base is powered by oil, including the heating and cooling of tents, the powering of vital communications equipment, and the patrol vehicles themselves.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, our servicemen and women were put at great risk in order to protect supply routes for the fuel convoys that provided vital power supplies to remote forward-operating bases. These convoys were quickly recognized as easy targets for the enemy. From 2003-2007, one in twenty-four fuel convoys resulted in a service-member killed or injured, claiming the lives of over 3,000 Americans.
The national security threat of our single-source dependence is not limited to the battlefield. As the largest institutional consumer of fuel in the world, the Department of Defense is extremely vulnerable to price shocks, which puts strain on the military’s budget...
The impacts of climate change – including severe droughts, record heat waves, extreme storms, food shortages, mass migration, and rising sea levels – will be felt worldwide. Destabilization in already weak states will exacerbate existing security threats and pose a serious threat to those whose mission it is to protect and serve.
For the reasons identified in that quote, the commitment to climate change mitigation and sustainable fuels is already deeply embedded at the Pentagon. McCarthy and his donors in the fossil fuels industry probably couldn't pry things loose, even if they tried.
So that particular idea is DOA. But it's indicative of the kind of nonsense Republicans are putting out there about the federal budget. That's why McCarthy doesn't want to specify any actual cuts. If he did, even a simple-minded blogger sitting on her couch in Minnesota could see through the bullshit.