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Dodging the Impact of Their Policies "Across the Board"

A day after the Congressional Republicans unveiled their “Pledge to America,” it becomes even clearer that this is merely a return to the very same special-interest policies that got us into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

This morning, the weekly Republican address is being delivered by Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Congressman who spearheaded the Republican "Pledge to America" -- an effort already widely recognized as a return to the very same special-interest policies that got us into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Indeed, Rep. McCarthy's address only highlights the shortcomings of the Congressional Republicans' plans.  He laments that "our children will be saddled with a deficit and debt that is -- by every definition -- out of control" -- yet fails to mention that his own "pledge" would "increase the deficit by trillions of dollars."  He also neglects to mention that Congressional Republicans voted en masse against PAYGO legislation and against a health reform bill that shaves $1 trillion off the deficit, all while supporting hundreds of billions of dollars of tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires

The only symbolic nod to concern about the deficit at the beginning came earlier this month when House Minority Leader John Boehner said vaguely that Republicans were going to institute what amounts to a 20 percent cut in non-security discretionary spending. But yesterday, in an exchange on MSNBC, it was Representative Kevin McCarthy who finally fleshed out the details of the Republicans’ plan to cut spending. When pressed over and over to name one program that the Republicans would cut, McCarthy said that the cuts would be: “across the board.”

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What would the Republicans’ “across the board” cut mean in reality?

As I wrote when they first released it, the GOP plan would mean Head Start would have to slash 200,000 children from its rolls, the FBI would cut 2,700 agents, and Federal prisons would have to cut 3,800 correctional officers.

This sort of indiscriminate cutting also would gut the investments needed to lay the foundation for long-term economic growth. Take education: the GOP plan would mean that we wouldn’t be able to fund the turnaround of roughly 100 of our lowest-performing schools; we’d have to eliminate funds that help pay the costs of educating 6.7 million special education students; and about 8 million college students would see their Pell grants cut by an average of $700.

Or take infrastructure and innovation. We’d have to terminate or postpone up to 600 clean energy projects, cut 250 water and wastewater projects funded from the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, and delay progress on a needed upgrade to our air traffic control system. In addition, the National Science Foundation would have to close every research facility and national lab it funds or decide to close its cyber-infrastructure and engineering directorates.

Finally, the GOP’s “across-the-board” cut would also mean that the Securities and Exchange Commission would need to cut at least 600 employees from the levels needed to implement financial reform, and dramatically reduce inspections so that more than half of all stock brokers and dealers would not be inspected at all each year. It’d be anything goes on Wall Street all over again. Similarly, these cuts would make it impossible for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to cover mandatory daily inspections.

In contrast to this reckless approach, the President has proposed a three-year freeze on discretionary spending outside of security that will cut programs that do not work or are not essential, while still investing in what we need to keep the economy growing and protect the health and safety of the American people. So even as we invest in education, infrastructure, and innovation, the President’s plan would bring non-security discretionary spending to its lowest levels in nearly 50 years.

The President has put forward the specifics of what he would cut and how. It’s time that the Republicans do the same.

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director