Boehner Wants Big Cuts in Exchange for Debt Ceiling Increase

Boehner wants some pretty big cuts in exchange for a vote on raising the debt ceiling.

Via the NYTBoehner Outlines Demands on Debt Limit Fight

Speaker John A. Boehner said Monday that Republicans would insist on trillions of dollars in federal spending cuts in exchange for their support of an increase in the federal debt limit sought by the Obama administration to prevent a government default later this year.

[…]

“Without significant spending cuts and changes to the way we spend the American people’s money, there will be no debt limit increase,” Mr. Boehner told members of New York’s business and finance community. “And cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given.” Mr. Boehner said those cuts should be in the trillions of dollars, not billions.

On the one hand, the House Republicans know that the debt ceiling has to be raised.  As such, it makes sense for them to take the opportunity before them to try and leverage the situation to their advantage.

On the other, this is not a case of saying Democrats want X and Republican want Y, so let’s press whatever advantage one has to achieve the preferred outcome.  No, this is a case wherein if the Republicans follow through with their threat and refuse to allow the debt ceiling to be increased, then there could be very serious economic repercussions.  As such, this is more than just a policy disagreement or even a petty political battle over which party gets its way.  This is about threatening the general economy.

Further, it is easy to say “we have to cuts trillions” (seriously, it is really easy to say—go ahead, try it now).  The doing, however, is another issue.  I would take the Republicans more seriously on this issue if they actually had a plan that will, in fact, save said trillions, as opposed to simply a declaration.

At a minimum, if one is going to state the need for cuts of that level, then there ought to be details to go along with the request.

We need a long-term serious approach to solving these fiscal problems, not a game of chicken over what should be a simple procedural issue.  Further, it is foolish to take a simple procedural issue into a potential economic crisis.

I have to wonder, too, as to the degree to which Boehner isn’t painting himself into a corner here, as I find it unlikely that the GOP will actually be willing to forgo raising the debt ceiling and then have whatever happens next be hung around their neck.  After all, Republicans have hopes of controlling the while Senate and the White House starting in January of 2013.

FILED UNDER: Deficit and Debt, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    How is it that Boehner and the GOPs get to blackmail Democrats by threatening to jump off a cliff themselves? Obama, Reid, and Pelosi should just lay back and let Boehner’s Wall St. sponsors bring him to heel.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    This seems more Boehner’s hand bening forced by the economically radical right in the Republican caucus, than any plan of his own. The man has publically acknowleged that default would be a Bad Idea, and yet he’s suddenly talking tough about cuts when he spent a career in congress shovelling out the cash as quickly as he could.

    I think it’s fairly obvious Boehner has little control over his fellow Republicans.

  3. john personna says:

    I like the phraseology: “And cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given.” As if congress was a bystander to all this spending.

  4. mantis says:

    Is he going to cry when he doesn’t get his way?

  5. wonkie says:

    As if the Republicans in Congress were bystanders to all of the spending.

    The majority of the deficit was created by the Republicans in Congress–on purpose, acting on the advice of Grover Norquist, (If they didn’t create the defict purposely then there are an awful lot of Republcans who can’t do third grade math.) Now the the creators of the deficit are doing what Norquist advised: using the deficit to impose their vivious ideology on the nation.

  6. Herb says:

    Defaulting on debt because you’re unwilling to pay it is not “fiscal responsibility,” no matter how much the GOP markets it as such.

  7. Hey Norm says:

    Okee dokee Mr. Speaker…just give me an outline of how you want to cut those trillions and we can talk. Because as was pointed out above it’s easy to talk the talk…let’s see you walk the walk. The budget plan you already passed in the house actually raises the debt absent abolishing Medicare, which you have already walked (ran) away from. So cut it with the generalities and let’s get down to specifics. Failing that you are just pandering to the old folks with the tea bags dangling from their hats.

  8. rodney dill says:

    Is he going to cry when he doesn’t get his way?

    You really have to ask something that stupid? He’s going to cry whether he gets his way or not.

  9. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    On the one hand, the House Republicans know that the debt ceiling has to be raised.

    No, actually it doesn’t.

  10. ponce says:

    Boner’s just proving that the TEA Party has become satisfied with being able to force the Republican leadership into making empty, tough talk speeches and holding meaningless votes.

    I think we can all live with that.

  11. john personna says:

    No, actually it doesn’t.

    For this to be mathematically true, there would have to be sufficient cuts possible in the next month or two to prevent overrun.

    Cuts beyond that window don’t help you.

  12. mantis says:

    No, actually it doesn’t.

    To avoid economic calamity, it does.

  13. Wayne says:

    Answer this. What is the purpose of the Debt Ceiling?

  14. ratufa says:

    No, actually it doesn’t.

    Even if the Ryan plan was adopted “as is”, tomorrow, and even if the budget and spending estimates in the Ryan plan are true, we’ll be running deficits and increasing our national debt for decades to come.

    What budget plan has been proposed that eliminates the need to raise the debt ceiling?

  15. john personna says:

    I think the purpose of the debt ceiling is to keep things public. The treasury can’t quietly borrow an extra trillion to make the books tally. Congress has to review the problem, and theoretically make changes or improvements.

    It also provides a focus for public comment. That’s all good.

    Ah, here’s a bit on what’s bad: Does Unreal GDP Drive Our Policy Choices?

    The argument might be a bit overstated, but it’s a good reminder that borrowing produces “GDP” without adjustment for “debt.”

  16. @Wayne:

    Answer this. What is the purpose of the Debt Ceiling?

    I think the technical answer is: it acts as a political gimmick.

  17. Wayne says:

    JP
    The debt would be public regardless of if there was a debt ceiling or not.

    Steven
    I believe you are right at least as many liberals and politicians treat the debt ceiling. The way the treat the debt ceiling, we should just do away with it. If it automatically gets raise everytime then it is pointless.

    However there are many of us that are tired of “business as usual” when it comes to politics. It is disingenuous for those who complain about how government is run but are unwilling to change. About like someone complaining they are getting fatter and fatter but are unwilling to change their eating and exercise habits.

    How about we treat the debt ceiling like what its supposed purpose. Does it mean we can’t raise it? No but doing so should come with some major change in spending habits. The plan should be to reduce the debt ceiling in the long run not just keep raising it.

    Business as usual will destroy this country. I for one will not support that.

  18. ponce says:

    “Answer this. What is the purpose of the Debt Ceiling?”

    Alfred Hitchcock labeled things like the debt ceiling “MacGuffins”

  19. The debt ceiling does not have to be raised. You just don’t like the consequences of it, somewhat similar to Mr. Verdon’s comments regarding a free market in health care.

  20. Wayne says:

    Thinking the debt ceiling is unimportant will only end up in disaster. It is kind of like ignoring a cancer.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

    So what does that say for those who keep encourage doing the same bad behavior?

    If raising the debt ceiling is that important then liberals and Democrats should be willing to give in on budget cuts to accomplish it right? Perhaps it is only important so that they can keep spending so much and not so much of “we can’t default on our loans

  21. john personna says:

    Wayne, more public, obviously.

    Charles, healthcare changes only affect out years.

  22. john personna says:

    @Wayne “liberals give in”

    What a fantasy world. The Repubs haven’t asked for cuts – just talk about cuts.

  23. The debt ceiling does not have to be raised. You just don’t like the consequences of it, somewhat similar to Mr. Verdon’s comments regarding a free market in health care.

    Charles,

    We have already incurred the debt. As someone else said above: how it is fiscally responsible to incur debt and then not pay for it?

  24. @Wayne:

    I believe you are right at least as many liberals and politicians treat the debt ceiling.

    Yes, noted liberals like George Will.

    Look: this is one of those issues that most people didn’t even realize existed (it dates back to 1917) and the only reason some now think it is a bridge worth dying on is because it has become a political/ideological talking point.

  25. I didn’t say don’t pay the debt. Either raise sufficient revenue or stop spending. Today. Where is the appropritae level of disgust and anger for a government that is spending $1.5T this year alone that we do not have? There’s an old planning aphorism that work will expand to fill the time available. I guaran-damn-tee that any raising of the debt ceiling will be spent, and will then be followed by another “absolutely necessary” request to raise the debt limit again. The over/under on that request is two years.

    A wise man once said that anything that can’t go on forever won’t. We can pay the painful price today or pay a more painful price tomorrow.

  26. Dr. Taylor, while some may have recently joined the bandwagon for short term political gain others have been railing about the debt for a long time. Seems to me the arguments go back at least to the 1980s.

  27. @Charles:

    Dr. Taylor, while some may have recently joined the bandwagon for short term political gain others have been railing about the debt for a long time. Seems to me the arguments go back at least to the 1980s.

    But I didn’t say anything about the debt by itself. I was talking about the debt ceiling as a talking point. They are not the same thing–although a lot of people, in all honesty yourself included, are talking like they are the same thing. They are not.

    I didn’t say don’t pay the debt. Either raise sufficient revenue or stop spending. Today

    All well and good, but it doesn’t work that way.

  28. Herb says:

    I didn’t say don’t pay the debt.

    If you don’t support raising the debt limit, you support letting those debts going unpaid.

    In other words….don’t pay the debt. You may not have used those words, but that’s what you meant.

  29. john personna says:

    Charles just said raise revenue?

    FWIW, McClatchy Newspapers recently published Americans shouldering rather light tax burden, in part:

    Here’s a dirty little secret that most Americans don’t want to hear: We’re undertaxed.

    That may sound like heresy; nobody wants to pay more taxes. But by historical standards, what we pay in federal taxes – rich, poor and everyone in between – has gone down.

    Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2011/05/08/20110508americans-taxes-light-burden0508.html#ixzz1LyfoDgrr

  30. mantis says:

    I didn’t say don’t pay the debt. Either raise sufficient revenue or stop spending.

    So you don’t really understand what you’re talking about then.

  31. john personna says:

    I’m sure you’d have to crank the taxes harder than most would find palatable to meet charles’ challenge … but the really interesting thing to me is that charles is suggesting it.

    But to do some back of the envelope calculation:

    The Treasury has told lawmakers a roughly $2 trillion rise in the legal limit on federal debt would be needed to ensure the government can keep borrowing through the 2012 presidential election, sources with knowledge of the discussions said.

    $2 trillion over 18 months, is 1 1/3 trillion needed per year.

    Current total government receipts (taxes tariffs, etc.) are running a little over $2, and so taxes etc would have to basically double.

  32. john personna says:

    oops, should have closed blockquote after “discussions said.”

  33. Wayne says:

    Re “All well and good, but it doesn’t work that way”

    Just because that is not the way they done it before and\or been willing to do doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

    So mantis please tell us why that won’t work besides “we don’t want to”? Not that I’m saying that is the only way to do it but it is one option.

    Steven
    There are others besides liberals that believe the debt ceiling is pointless and the way most treat it it is. I simply saying it is time to start treating as more than just a “political gimmick”. It is time for US. Governments need to start dealing with reality and take their heads out of where they are now.

  34. Just because that is not the way they done it before and\or been willing to do doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

    Actually, sometimes it does mean exactly that.

  35. Wayne says:

    JP
    Ryan has presented a fairly detail plan which is a good start. What have the Democrats proposed?

  36. An Interested Party says:

    Ryan has presented a fairly detail plan which is a good start.

    Yeah, it’s such a good start that Senate Republicans are running away from it as fast as they can…

  37. mantis says:

    So mantis please tell us why that won’t work besides “we don’t want to”? Not that I’m saying that is the only way to do it but it is one option.

    Why don’t you first demonstrate you understand what the debt ceiling is, how it works, and what will happen if we default on our debt. If we’re going to seriously discuss this, I want to know you have a minimal baseline of understanding here. You seem not to.

  38. john personna says:

    Wayne, I don’t like the “rude hammer” in Ryan’s plan. That is, hit everyone less than 55 yo with a drastic reduction in health care.

    Just curious, are you older than 55, or far enough younger that you haven’t worried about it yet?

  39. john personna says:

    Note again on the math, to avoid moving the debt limit you’d have to _immediately_ bridge a $1.3 trillion per year spending gap.

    You’d have to do things like immediate hikes to payroll taxes and an immediate suspension of overseas military operations.

  40. steve says:

    Discussing the debt ceiling is a waste of time. We should be talking about a long term budget that reduces the debt. The Ryan plan is a bit vague and the GOP is having trouble selling it. Its tax cuts belie its primary purpose as an attempt to reduce the debt. We need to revisit Simpson-Bowles which was more realistic, though still too vague.

    Steve

  41. Dr. Taylor, et al, I don’t think I am confused about the annual fiscal debt or the debt ceiling at all. Perhaps you misunderstand that I am challenging certain assumptions. Social Security checks could stop tomorrow. Medicare payments could stop tomorrow. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That is exactly what will happen some day if we keep going as we are. And yes, I did say that one option is to raise revenue. I think it is a very bad option, but still preferable to spending money we don’t have.

  42. Wayne says:

    JP
    First you claim that Republicans don’t have a plan then you complain you don’t like their plan. You can’t have it both ways. It is disingenuous to claim someone hasn’t presented a plan simply because you don’t like the one they presented.

  43. john personna says:

    No serious plan = No plan

    Unless you are just posing.

  44. anjin-san says:

    It is time for US. Governments need to start dealing with reality and take their heads out of where they are now.

    And it’s time for Republicans to stop pretending that the deficit is anything more to them than a club to bash Obama with…

  45. Herb says:

    That is exactly what will happen some day if we keep going as we are.

    Fair enough.

    The problem, however, is that much of this debt was incurred under Republican rule and now they’re a bit skittish about paying for it. Hence the refusal to raise taxes, the insistence on radical cuts to the budget, and this political game of chicken with the debt ceiling.

    It’s not unreasonable at this point to wonder if Republican advice is best when it’s gone unheeded.

  46. hey norm says:

    Boehner voted in favor of both Bush Tax Cuts in 2001 and 2003, he voted for the invasion of Iraq, and he voted yes on Medicare Part D. These three unpaid for items, along with the interest on the borrowed money, are the biggest drivers of the deficit and debt. Now Republicans do not want to pay for them. And this is a conservative stand, how?