ERICKSON: Math is hard for both parties in Washington, D.C.

March 15, 2013 

The Democrats and Republicans have their different budget proposals out. The Republicans argue we should only increase the national debt to about $18.2 trillion. They are outraged by the Democratic big spenders who want to increase the national debt to $18.9 trillion.

Paul Ryan’s budget proposal released from the House of Representatives at least balances the budget in 10 years. He repeals Obamacare, but he presumes the revenue stream generated by the taxes in both Obamacare and the Mitch McConnell tax increase from earlier this year remain.

Democrats rightly point out this seems to be a concession that Republicans could not balance the budget without the tax increases. Ryan responds that the revenue stream presumes Congress will enact meaningful tax reforms to flatten and simplify the tax code in a “revenue neutral” way, which admits we keep the revenue from all the prior tax increases.

Democrats, on the other hand, show little willingness to engage in meaningful cuts. Republicans may be cutting rates of growth and no other major cuts beyond the already existing sequestration cuts. Democrats want to increase taxes and spending.

Just a few years ago, Democrats across the nation roared in disgust when then Vice President Dick Cheney claimed deficits do not matter. Now, the Democratic president has gone to the right of even Cheney on drone deployment and he too is now declaring deficits do not matter.

Liberal pundits who were outraged by Cheney’s claim that deficits do not matter, now insist they must be higher. Lost in the discussion is that we now spend more on interest payments in the federal budget -- I use the term “budget” loosely since it has been five years since we have had a real one -- than we spend on most social welfare spending. As deficits go up and are not closed, the national debt increases. The interest payments will increase.

Then there is this rub. The president and Democrats want to raise taxes on those who make $250,000 a year or more. Assume for a moment that they get this tax increase. The money raised in the best case scenario would not close this year’s budget deficit. Assume, instead, that the president and Congress confiscate 100 percent of the earnings of those who make $250,000 a year or more. Based on the Democrats’ proposed budget, the amount of money that could be raised would, in the absolute best case scenario possible, but without guarantee, close this year’s budget deficit and that’s it. But it would not impact the national debt at all.

Ultimately, to rein in the national debt, cuts have to be made. Those cuts must be real cuts, not cuts in the rate of growth. For all the faults of the Ryan budget plan, he locks in the tax increases from both Obamacare and the McConnell tax hike and locks in the real cuts from sequestration. The Democrats have yet to begin a serious conversation about real cuts.

Two weeks ago, President Obama warned the American people that sequestration cuts would cause more than 4,180 children in Georgia to go without basic vaccinations because of cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget. The cuts to the CDC amounted to $18 million. Obama himself, last year, claimed the CDC budget could be cut $58 million without affecting vaccinations. Real cuts are possible. Once, the president was willing to offer those real cuts. But now the issue is too convenient for political rhetoric on both sides. Meanwhile the nation’s finances are crumbling.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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