In 2001, Republican President George W. Bush and the GOP Congress saw the baseline-projected $5.6 trillion surplus during the next 10 years and decided that it could be used to pay for a tax cut. We now know that the baseline wasn’t even close to what actually happened. The projected surplus was based on incorrect assumptions that the high-flying economy would continue to fly high, there would be no new substantial domestic spending programs and the U.S. military wouldn’t be required to carry out new activities overseas. The fact that none of those turned out to be true was beside the point; the GOP White House and Congress didn’t wait to offset the tax cut with the baseline.
The GOP is saying the opposite in 2012: Republicans in the House and Senate have decided the $850 billion or so the baseline assumes will be spent in Afghanistan during the next decade isn’t real and, therefore, cuts to it can’t be used as an offset for anything else.
Let me state again that not wanting to use projected military spending that’s very unlikely to occur as an offset for cutting other revenues or increasing other spending is the correct thing to do from a bottom line point of view.
But doing that while also insisting that it was appropriate to use the projected $5.6 trillion surplus to pay for the 2001 tax cut is all-star level hypocrisy. The surplus was as unlikely to occur from 2001 to 2010 as the Afghanistan-related spending is from 2012 to 2021, and the two positions are absolutely contradictory, inconsistent and incompatible.
I’d feel much better about this situation if Congressional Republicans would do one of two things: agree to allow the baseline spending for Afghanistan to be used as an offset or admit that their refusing to do so means they made a big mistake in 2001.
Doing neither is the equivalent of the golfer on that par 5 hole carrying his ball to the green instead of hitting from the tee but still taking credit for the eagle on his scorecard.
Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the blog Capital Gains and Games. He is also the author of “The Guide to the Federal Budget.”