NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Born Again Conservative?

April 12, 2004

John Kerry spoke last week at Georgetown University about the need to get the deficit under control. Unfortunately, it was all just vague rhetoric, says Bruce Bartlett.

  • Kerry proposes cutting the deficit in half in four years -- which is exactly the same goal George W. Bush set forth in his 2005 budget issued in January, which every Democrat in Congress denounced as grossly inadequate.
  • Kerry blames Bush's spending for getting us into a budgetary mess but he uses Orwellian doublespeak by calling tax cuts spending -- that is, if a taxpayer is allowed to keep a bit of his own money, it is exactly the same as if he got a check from the government.

There is not one specific in the Kerry plan, says Bartlett:

  • He can't even use his previous proposal to rescind the Bush tax cuts as a deficit reducing action, because he has already promised that revenue several times for other tax cuts, expanded health care and other initiatives.
  • So Kerry merely proposes budget rules that would require paying for new spending with tax increases, often called pay-as-you-go or PAYGO, and says he will reduce corporate welfare, as if this is enough to balance the budget.

PAYGO rules are not a way of reducing deficits. At best they only keep them from getting worse. PAYGO might have been helpful last year, however, since it might have stopped passage of the disastrous Medicare drug bill. So unless Kerry is proposing to make it retroactive, it is hard to see how PAYGO will do much of anything to reduce the deficit, explains Bartlett.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Born Again Conservative?" National Center for Policy Analysis, April 12, 2004.


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