John Boehner and Mitch McConnell celebrate their midterm victory in customary style, by writing a Wall Street Journal op-ed explaining their vision. In it, they promise to work to address “a national debt that has Americans stealing from their children and grandchildren, robbing them of benefits that they will never see and leaving them with burdens that will be nearly impossible to repay.”
Oddly, only a few of the legislative items they propose have any relation to this burdensome debt that troubles them so. Even more oddly, all of those proposals would increase the debt.
Boehner and McConnell have mentioned three proposals that have any significant fiscal effects:
1. “renewing our commitment to repeal ObamaCare”
The Congressional Budget Office confirmed last year that repealing Obamacare would increase the budget deficit by $109 billion over a decade.
2. “a proposal to restore the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employment.”
The CBO measured this, too. It would increase deficits by $73 billion over a decade.
3. Repeal the medical device tax (a proposal missing from the op-ed, but reported to top the list of Congressional priorities).
This would increase the deficit by $29 billion over a decade.
Of course, all the fiscal proposals they list are related to Obamacare. This is not a coincidence. The GOP’s Obamacare conundrum in a nutshell is that they have condemned the law for its fiscal irresponsibility, but its political weakness stems precisely from its fiscal responsibility. The law made a lot of enemies because it had to make the numbers add up. Republicans have spent five years promising to get around to proposing their own plan, but they haven’t done it because if you want to make the numbers add up, you have to take things away from people.
That’s why, whenever they vote to repeal the law, which would take things away from people, they attach the concrete repeal to a vague promise to write some alternative health-care plan, someday. But grappling with tradeoffs is hard. Giving away money is easy.