Carly Fiornia Won’t Say Where She’d Cut The Federal Budget

Yesterday's appearance by Carly Fiorina on Fox News Sunday provided an excellent example of how un-serious Republicans are when it comes to living up to their fiscally conservative rhetoric.

For anyone who believes that fiscal conservatism is more important than party loyalty, yesterday’s appearance by GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina on Fox News Sunday was incredibly frustrating. Asked by Chris Wallace seven separate times where she’d come up with the budget cuts necessary to cut the deficit, Fiorina consistently refused to answer:

WALLACE: You’re campaigning and you just alluded to it, to your record as a tough, bottom line, former business executive. But you want to extend all the Bush tax cuts which would add 4 trillion to the deficit. You say balance the budget by cutting spending. Question, as a bottom line businesswoman, where are you going to find $4 trillion to cut?

FIORINA: …We don’t know how taxpayer money is spent in Washington, D.C, which is why I think we ought to put every agency budget up on the internet for everyone to see, ban earmarks, and we ought to give citizens the opportunity to desginate up to 10% of their federal income tax toward debt reduction. If we did, that we would reduce our debt by $95 billion a year.

WALLACE: Miss Fiorina, the traditional ways that people talk about non-discretionary – I mean discretionary, non-defense spending is only 16% of the budget. You could cut all of that out, all for education and energy, and for police support and government worker support around the country, it wouldn’t be anywhere close to $4 trillion. Where are you going to get that kind of money if you extend all of the bust era tax cuts. That only adds to the deficit. It doesn’t even deal with the deficit we already have.

FIORINA: Well, of course, first the thing we need to do, to deal with our debt and our deficit is to both cut spending and grow the economy. That’s fundamentally what we have to do. Those tax cuts are central to growing the economy. Indeed, I would argue there are some additional tax cuts we need to make.[…]

WALLACE: Miss Fiorina, let me ask you a specific question because I still haven’t gotten many specifics on how you will cut $4 trillion and more out of the budget. Back when there was talk about a non-partisan, or a bipartisan deficit, debt commission you blasted that idea in January and said we know all the solutions. We don’t need another commission to study it. Now…you tell me specifically what are you going to do to cut the billions, the trillions of dollars in entitlements?

FIORINA: First, I didn’t blast the commission saying we already had solutions. I blasted the commission because I believed it was a feint for tax increases.[…]

WALLACE: But forgive me, Miss Fiorina, where are you going to cut entitlements? What benefits are you going to cut? What eligibility are you doing..

FIORINA: Chris, I have to say, with all due respect, you’re asking a typical political question.[…]

WALLACE: It may be a typical political question but that’s where the money is. The money is in Medicare and Social Security. We have baby-boomers coming. There will be a huge explosion of entitlement explosion and you call it a political question when I ask you to name one single entitlement you are willing to cut.

FIORINA: Chris, I believe to deal with entitlement reform, which we must deal with, we ought to put every possible solution on the table, except we should be very clear we are not going to cut benefits to those nearing retirement or those nearing retirement or those in retirement.[…]

WALLACE: I’m going to try one last time, and if you don’t want to answer it, Miss Fiorina, you don’t have to.

FIORINA: It’s not a question of not wanting to answer it!

WALLACE: Let me ask the question, if I may, please. You’re not willing to put forward a single benefit – I’m not talking about the people 60 or let alone 65, or 70. I’m talking about people under 55. You’re not willing to say there is a single benefit eligibility for Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security that you are willing to say “Yeah, I would cut that?”

FIORINA: What I think we need to do to engage the American people in a conversation about entitlement reform is to have a bipartisan group of people who come together and put every solution on the table, every alternative on the table. Then we ought to engage in a long conversation with the American people so they understand the choices.

These are the same platitudes we’ve heard from Republicans before. Ask them how they’ll balance the budget and they go off on a five minute discussion about “government waste,” a topic that’s been on the plate in Washington since President Reagan established the Grace Commission in the 1980s. The problem is that a few hundred million dollars in waste in a two trillion dollar budget are like a raindrop in a monsoon. They’re meaningless. Never do you hear Republicans talk about cutting defense spending, and bring up entitlement reform and they revert to the same meaningless platitudes that Fiorina frustrated Wallace with in the interview above.

If this is what Republicans have in store for us after 2011, then it is clearly just going to be more of the same.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. I saw that exchange yesterday and had similar thoughts. I find the “waste” business especially annoying.

  2. john personna says:

    This seems like something out of Saturday Night Live … but it also seems to capture where we are in 2010 exactly.

  3. john personna says:

    (Should be a top-level story for that reason.)

  4. John,

    Your right, I’ve decided to take it out of Quick Takes

  5. sam says:

    Heh. This is the best typo I’ve seen since, oh, the Rich Whitey one:

    “Where are you going to get that kind of money if you extend all of the bust era tax cuts.”

    Bust era, indeed.

  6. sam says:

    At least I think it’s a typo (bust for bush), if not, kudos…

  7. Sam,

    I’m pretty sure that it was a typo on the part of the transcriber

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    “If this is what Republicans have in store for us after 2011, then it is clearly just going to be more of the same.”

    You don’t say Doug. This is one of those places where the entire Alice in Wonderland Republican supply side philosophy implodes. The fact is that as nation we have certain expenses all of which have major constituencies to defend them from AARP to United Technologies. Total federal and state expenditures are around $4.5 trillion and a lot of state spending is based on transfer payments from the Fed. Roughly half the states (most of them Red politically) are net recipients of fiscal flows. A major part of our GDP which is 70% consumer spending driven depends on these expenditures at state and federal level. The Republicans only policy prescription for dealing with this reality is further tax cuts and totally undefined “slashing” of the federal budget which invariably includes committments to leave major social programs like Medicare and SS well alone because otherwise half the tea party will get scared off. Bottom line you can’t do a heckuva lot about the level of government spending nor do you particularly want to at the moment with the economy on the ropes. The best you can hope for is some modest adjustments like raising retirement ages, shutting down some wars and curtailing “waste” although inevitably “waste” has defenders too. This along with raising effective tax rates modestly is the obvious solution but Republicans won’t address this and so are driven to nonsensical performances like that of Fiorina where asking where cuts might fall is dismissed as a “political question.”

  9. Pug says:

    There is just more of the same in store. It’s just a simple fact that you can’t cut taxes, maintain or increase defense spending, Medicare, Madicaid, Social Security and, at the same time, reduce the deficit. It ain’t gonna happen.

    What’s in store for us is a bunch of investigations into right-wing boogeymen: Acorn, Freddie and Fannie, Obama’s alleged job offer to Joe Sestak and, of course, the president’s birth certificate. That is what is in store for us.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    “That is what is in store for us.”

    Well call me a cockeyed optimist but I don’t think they are going to win either house despite all the early chicken counting going on. This prediction is worthless of course so I’m not interested in arguing about it. But even if they do win big and all the antics you describe occur, as they will of course, what do you think is going in 2012 after two years of this mayhem and in the environment of a normal presidential turnout?

  11. john personna says:

    We’ve had Republican stalwarts here also refusing to talk about real cuts, or a real balance to the trillions. Assuming that they don’t have to, politically, what happens next?

    Do we just run the next congressional cycle (whatever the party composition) with “fiscal sanity” mouthed back and forth, and the same old crap budget and crap taxes?

  12. Pete says:

    Joe, I agree with you. Where do you think this will go over the next ten years? How does our economy grow enough to start to reduce the debt? There is not enough money in tax increases, discretionary spending, and possible even defense spending, although I would like to see some cuts there. So how do we correct this? This got my attention this morning: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/10/the_great_pension_lie.html

  13. john personna says:

    I could write 10 points on how to cut costs and stimulate the economy at the same time. The problem is that they all gore someone’s ox. Consider just one: eliminate all agricultural and energy subsidies over the next 10 years.

    We should, but we can’t, right?

  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    Pete says:
    Monday, October 18, 2010 at 08:48
    “Joe, I agree with you. Where do you think this will go over the next ten years?”

    French pension obligations at the national level are far more serious than ours. A retirement age of 60 and official work week of 35 hours is simply unsustainable. I actually don’t think our SS situation is anywhere near as desperate as painted but where we do have a looming train wreck on pensions analogous to the French situation is at the state level. Most of them have massively underfunded pension committments to retiring public employees like teachers and policemen who are able to retire ridiculously early. I saw a news story on tv last evening about some cop in NYC where they are able to retire at 44 and with some massaging collect a pension of, wait for it, $104,000 a year! The bloat them up by allowing the retiree to work excessive overtime in his last couple of years and the pension is based on earnings over this period. It can’t go on.

    On the wider issue, the problem with the economy at the moment is lack of demand and until this gets solved either naturally (which is happening but slowly) or with some stimulus (which isn’t going to happen) it’s going to be a long road. The QE being proposed by the fed will help by lowering long term jnterest rates but as many have observed it is pushing on a string. The absence of credit for the creditworthy is largely bs, and businesses aren’t holding off expanding because of “uncertainty” but because of the strength of their order books. The most sensible analysis of this whole issue by a conservative was some piece by Bruce Bartlett in Forbes where he faced up the realities which is why he’s hated by Republicans of course. I’ll see if I can find it. The Republican universe has no realistic answer to these problems which is why they are basically unfit to govern at present. If they regain power at the national level a FUBAR is inevitable because their prescriptions don’t work so either disaster occurs or they promptly turn into Keynesians as Bush and Paulsen did.

  15. Tano says:

    Pete,

    The article you linked to is utter nonsense. You can tell – whenever you start seeing the “Ponzi scheme” rhetoric, you know that some real bull is a-comin’.

    The repeated insistence in the article – that all government pension schemes are inherently unstable is patently absurd. Our own Social Security system, for example, is rock-sold guaranteed to be economically viable for the indefinite future, even if we change nothing other than being willing to accept a 30% benefit cut 30 years from now. If we wish to avoid that cut, then minor tweaks would do the job. The only problem that exists is the fact that there was a demographic bubble, the baby boom generation, and so a minor adjustment need be made until this bolus passes through the system. Otherwise there is no problem.

  16. john personna says:

    Just curious, how many here are actually ready (as I am) to cut? And cut what?

    I’d cut lots of things. I’d encourage states to eliminate extra-curricular expenses in schools (rather than teachers in core subjects). I’d encourage state colleges to reduce costs by biting the bullet and reducing enrollment (until such time as they can reduce per-student costs). I’d encourage everyone to reduce prison populations, sending plain old drug users to counseling all the time and jail never.

  17. reid says:

    Kudos to Wallace for doing the journalism thing.

  18. Brummagem Joe says:

    PETE:
    I dug up these couple of pieces by Bartlett where he talks entire sense but Republicans aren’t interested in sense any longer which is why they’ve lost people like me. Even the economic comments here from Mataconis and Joyner who are semi grounded are extremely simplistic and largely ignore the realities of our society and govt.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/07/bruce_bartlett_deficit_economy_and_vat

    http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/24/fiscal-spending-taxes-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    “The article you linked to is utter nonsense.”

    It’s not entirely nonsense. It exaggerates the extent of our national problem by reference to another society totally unlike ours and the Ponzi rhetoric is bs, but we undoubtedly have some serious pension problems at the state level. I’m basically in sympathy with your comment Tano but to say there is “no problem” would be wrong.

  20. john personna says:

    So how long should I wait before saying, “oh, it isn’t just Republicans who can’t cut spending, no one can?”

  21. john personna says:

    So how long should I wait before saying, “screw it, we just have to raise taxes?”

  22. Pete says:

    Thanks Joe, I’ll give ’em a read

  23. Alex Knapp says:

    Doug,

    You’re not suggesting that the woman who took one of the best technology companies in the world and ran it into the ground might be….. incompetent…. are you?

  24. anjin-san says:

    > but we undoubtedly have some serious pension problems at the state level.

    The country and local levels as well. Salaries are out of hand as well. The population of the next town over from me is about 52K. The city manager makes more that the gov. of California. The city attorney makes more than the California’s attorney general.

    This is real government waste that needs real reform.

  25. john personna says:

    No Alex, she seems the perfect democratic (small d) candidate. How can you fault her for representing the will of the people?

  26. anjin-san says:

    > You’re not suggesting that the woman who took one of the best technology companies in the world and ran it into the ground might be….. incompetent…. are you?

    I know a lot of HP alumni, and there is consensus among them that Carly is a joke. Her idea of success at HP was measure by the number of magazine covers she was on.

  27. Alex Knapp says:

    Anjin-san,

    That’s been what I’ve heard about of Fiorina, too.

    Fiorina is a prime example of why I agree with Dodd that the Tea Party is ignored at our peril. The Tea Party has brought us candidates Fiorina, Miller, O’Donnell, Paladino, and Angle — a group of folks with a long history of incompetence with nutty views on obscure topics. Miller and Angle are career government workers. O’Donnell has never worked a real job, having been a political activist and media gadfly her whole life. Fiorina’s history is of someone who’s managed to get promoted after every major failure–she’s the Peter Keating of the tech world. Paladino is a racist prick.

    The closest the Tea Party has come to a real candidate with actual success in private life and reasonably coherent views is Rand Paul. And even he had to make up his own Optometry board in order to be “board-certified.”

  28. john personna says:

    The Tea Party revels in solution-less complaint. Their differentiator is that they have never held power, and can pretend solutions for the future. Put enough of them in, and the’ll generate the same voter frustration as the main parties.

    Of course O’Donnell and Paladino might the shark jumpers that short circuit even that.

  29. Brummagem Joe says:

    Alex Knapp says:
    Monday, October 18, 2010 at 10:43
    Anjin-san,

    That’s been what I’ve heard about of Fiorina, too.

    “Fiorina is a prime example of why I agree with Dodd that the Tea Party is ignored at our peril. ”

    While not disagreeing with your basic premise that most of the tea party nominees are loons I take an entirely more sanguine view of the phenomenon. Most of them self destruct sooner or later. With some (Paladino and O’Donnell) it’s so soon they never get elected or where they do get elected they create such mayhem it is long remembered. Either way they reinforce the broader narrative that the GOP is dominated by loons. There’s already a widespread belief it’s dominated by religious zealots so to this you add a further sense of general nuttiness. This doesn’t matter in those states which have a large constituency in favor of nuttiness but in electoral terms this is a narrow base. I’m convinced this is a process that has to be gone through and that it’s ultimately the only thing that is going to get the GOP back on the high road. These people have got to screw up gloriously and publicly because it’s the only way to discredit extremism and allow moderate Republicans to get back in the driving seat.

  30. wr says:

    Anjin — The city of Bell is not an example of anything except a criminal conspiracy by a group of crooks who figured out how to game the system. It has nothing to do with the pay of government workers in general, or their retirement benefits.

    Unfortunately it’s going to be used as a club by those who feel that now corporations have eliminated the idea of pensions for their employees, it’s time to go after those last few workers who still have a secure retirement awaiting them.

  31. tom p says:

    “The problem is that a few hundred million dollars in waste in a two trillion dollar budget are like a raindrop in a monsoon. They’re meaningless. Never do you hear Republicans talk about cutting defense spending, and bring up entitlement reform and they revert to the same meaningless platitudes that Fiorina frustrated Wallace with in the interview above.”

    Wow Doug, I guess you are a liberal too ,I’ve been saying this here for years. I’ve also been saying “You cannot end the deficit without ending the Bush tax cuts.” (and I mean all of them) because we just aren’t going to cut the spending.

  32. anjin-san says:

    > Anjin — The city of Bell

    I was not referring to the city of Bell, which is an outlier. Most of the cities/counties in the bay area have executives earning excessive compensation and getting outrageous raises. Double dipping for pensions is totally out of hand, in many cases, executives will retire at 60, and go right back to work as a consultant while drawing their pension.

    I have no problem with the concept of a secure retirement, or adequate compensation for government workers. That being said, what is going on is a racket, and it goes far beyond Bell. The system is being gamed on a massive scale.

  33. george says:

    “You’re not suggesting that the woman who took one of the best technology companies in the world and ran it into the ground might be….. incompetent…. are you?”

    Well, it takes a special kind of skill to be able to convince people to let you run an excellent company into the ground without getting rid of you right from the start.

    I wonder if anyone really believes non-specific ‘we’ll find inefficiencies’ baggle-gab anymore though. When people like that get elected, its typically because the voters held their nose and decided they’ve a choice between 1.5/10 and 1.6/10 candidates.

  34. george says:

    And yes, Wallace did a very good job in the interview …