Republicans were elected on a spending-cut agenda, but Washington-based reporter Jackie Calmes threw cold water on the Tea Party in her Tuesday front-page story, "G.O.P. Sets Up A Huge Target For Budget Ax - Political Risk Is Seen in $100 Billion Goal." The text box: "Political and economic risks are seen in deep cuts."
The incoming Republican majority in the House is moving to make good on its promise to cut $100 billion from domestic spending this year, a goal eagerly backed by conservatives but one carrying substantial political and economic risks.
Calmes warned that the required reductions "would be so deep - roughly 20 percent on average - that Senate Republicans have not joined the $100 billion pledge" made by the House Republicans. She found "many economists" of indeterminate partisanship to argue that such cuts would "threaten the economy's recovery," while "conservative analysts" crazily insisted on even more cuts.
Such reductions are sure to draw protests from governors and local officials, including Republicans, who are counting on federal money to help balance their budgets. Many business and farm groups likewise would oppose cuts in their subsidies. And many economists would argue that immediate federal spending cuts of this size, especially on top of cuts and layoffs in the cities and states, would threaten the economy's recovery and offset any stimulus from the tax cut deal Republicans and Mr. Obama reached just weeks ago.
Yet conservative analysts say even more spending cuts are desirable. Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, has outlined a plan for $343 billion in reductions, including cuts from corporate tax breaks and entitlement programs that are not in the portion of the federal budget that House Republicans are focusing on, the so-called nonsecurity discretionary spending.
"The difficulty for Republicans is that they're concentrating their cuts in a small sliver of the budget," Mr. Riedl said. "They should also be addressing large entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, which are the main source of our budget problems. Cutting $100 billion from these other programs isn't just a matter of eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. It will involve real cuts in real programs."
Other Republicans are skeptical, as well.
Calmes concluded with more cold water - this time from Democrats.
"The reality of governing is different than the reality of campaigning, and it's easier to throw out a number than it is to support it," said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's senior strategist.
Looming over the budget fight is the battle over the debt limit. An increase in the debt limit is essential for the government to borrow to meet its obligations, but it is adamantly opposed by the Tea Party movement and other small-government conservatives.