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Cutting Through the Rhetoric on Spending

The New York Times calls Congressional Republicans' bluff on their empty fiscal responsibility rhetoric.

In Washington, it’s often hard to cut through it all the political rhetoric and examine the facts of what is being claimed. Today’s New York Times did that with a critical issue: government spending.

In “As G.O.P. Seeks Spending Cuts, Details Are Scarce,” David Herszenhorn reports that all over the country, Congressional Republicans are calling for spending restraint, but offering few if any details on what they would cut.

The scarcity of those details is probably explained by the fact that, as the Times puts it, “federal budget statistics show that Republican policies over the last decade, and the cost of the two wars, added far more to the deficit than initiatives approved by the Democratic Congress since 2006.” In particular, the previous administration’s failure to pay for two large tax cuts and a prescription drug benefit for Medicare added trillions of dollars to our deficits. Congressional Republicans certainly don’t mention that their call to extend tax cuts to the wealthiest of the wealthy would add another $700 billion to the deficit or that their call to repeal the Affordable Care Act actually would make the deficit $100 billion larger over the next decade.

Furthermore, while Congressional Republicans are talking about their vague plan for “across the board” cuts to non-security, discretionary spending, they are steadfastly refusing to flesh out what these cuts – which would amount to a 20 percent reduction in spending in critical areas like education --- would mean in reality.

As I wrote previously, this indiscriminate cutting would undermine some of our most important priorities. Look at education:  the Congressional 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.

In contrast, 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 and innovation, the President’s plan would bring non-security discretionary spending to its lowest levels in nearly 50 years.

That’s a responsible strategy for fiscal discipline and economic growth, one the President has detailed in his budget and talks about around the country. Instead of trying to hide behind their sound bites, it’s time that the Republicans in Congress come clean with their plans and account for their record.

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director