Where’s the Democrats’ Plan?

Republicans have offered plan after plan for deficit reduction but Democrats don’t seem willing to consider any substantial spending cuts.

Senate Democrats have threatened to block Speaker John Boehner’s $917 billion deficit reduction plan that would raise the nation’s debt ceiling by a similar amount this year. Just what budget cuts are they willing to accept?

Republican House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan’s budget for fiscal year 2012 achieved more than $6 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years. All House Republicans voted for it in April although Democrats characterized it as “reckless” because it would effectively privatize Medicare, which finances health care for seniors, over several decades. But it would also just barely balance the books by 2021 while spending increases every single year.

In the same month Republicans enacted the Ryan budget, their study committee in the House of Representatives suggested more than $9 trillion in cuts over the same ten year period. Under this plan, the federal government would grow by an average of just 1.7 percent compared to 2.8 percent under Ryan’s proposal and 4.7 percent in Barack Obama’s budget which would cut spending by just $100 billion a year.

The Senate overwhelmingly rejected the president’s 2012 budget proposal. Not a single senator, Democrat or Republican, voted in favor of it.

After Republicans voted for the Ryan budget and pushed for bigger cuts, the president came out with a speech in which he championed a “balanced” approach — a combination of austerity and tax hikes. He claimed that he could save more than a trillion in domestic spending, including military spending, over the next decade and trim some $100 billion in health support expenditures. Obama rejected the Republican plan however, opining that it would lead to a “fundamentally” different country than the one he envisages.

The Republican Study Committee’s plans were matched by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn this month who singlehandedly identified $9 trillion in potential savings. He knew that Democrats would never accept all of those cuts but urged them to at least pick half. “Half of them solve our problems,” he told CBS News.

Democrats, however, didn’t even consider his proposal. Now Speaker Boehner’s plan cuts less than a trillion over the next decade — the very amount set out by the president in February. And still, it’s too much?