"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Dems Forced From Position Of $20 bil. In Tax Hikes Instead Of Spending Cuts To $39 bil. In Cuts They Once Called “Extreme”

April 11th, 2011 by mopns · No Comments

In the wake of Friday’s agreement on spending for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, it’s worth reflecting on how far Democrats were forced to come from their initial offers on how to respond to Americans’ message to Washington to get the country’s fiscal house in order.

During the first week of February, Senate Democrat leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, and Patty Murray, wrote to House Speaker John Boehner to urge him not to make serious spending cuts, but to raise taxes. The Democrats wrote, “We are concerned that some of the cuts you may propose could undermine future growth just as our economy is beginning to recover. Instead, we urge you to consider ending a number of tax loopholes and other subsidies that benefit big oil and gas companies. Closing these loopholes would save the federal government more than $20 billion over 10 years.” In other words, at a time of rising gas prices and tight budgets for families and businesses, Democrats were urging tax hikes on oil and gas rather than cutting federal spending. Or, as The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren put it, “That’s $20 billion in ‘closed loopholes’ (read: gas taxes) with absolutely no spending cuts.”

 In early March, after the House and Senate had agreed to a beginning of $10.5 billion in cuts, Durbin, the 2nd-ranking Democrat in the Senate, proclaimed that “the limit.” Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked him, “[T]hen you’re saying $10.5 billion in domestic, non-defense discretionary spending, that’s it?” Durbin replied, “I think we’ve pushed this to the limit. To go any further is to push more kids out of school, to stifle the innovation which small businesses and large alike need to create more jobs.”

And while the final agreement is for around $39 billion in cuts, Senate Democrats had once called cuts of $32 billion “extreme,” “draconian,” and “unworkable.” Back in February, The Hill reported, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted a House Republican proposal to cut $32 billion from 2011 spending levels as ‘draconian’ and ‘unworkable.’” And Chuck Schumer held a press conference to declare, “I understand Republicans have deeply held views on how much we should cut. I think I happen to think some of their cuts are extreme and go overboard. But every week they keep upping the ante and proposing extreme cuts.”

And yet over the weekend, Democrats including President Obama were praising the deal. Even Ezra Klein, the dedicated liberal blogger at The Washington Post points out, “You would never have known that Democrats had spent months resisting these ‘historic’ cuts, warning that they’d cost jobs and slow the recovery.” Klein adds, “The Democrats believe it’s good to look like a winner, even if you’ve lost. But they’re sacrificing more than they let on. By celebrating spending cuts, they’ve opened the door to further austerity measures at a moment when the recovery remains fragile. Claiming political victory now opens the door to further policy defeats [for Democrats] later.”

As The Wall Street Journal editors observe, “The political gains are also considerable. When Mr. Obama introduced his 2012 budget in February, he proposed more spending on his priorities in return for essentially no cuts. Two months later, the debate is entirely about how much spending to cut and which part of government to reform. Democrats were forced to play defense nearly across the board, obliged to defend programs (National Public Radio) that were once thought to be untouchable shrines of modern liberalism.”

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