At Odds With Reality

Jonathan Chait observes that the House Republican budget "would cut at least $272 million in border security and immigration enforcement, including fencing and surveillance technology." He has two observations:

First, Republicans almost surely made cuts like this (and others to things like cancer research) in the assumption they wouldn't come to pass. Democrats control the Senate and White House, there will be negotiations, so Republicans can make cuts they don't want to actually take place and still retain support from their base.

But second, this shows again how utterly at odds with reality the conservative view of the budget is. There just is not a lot of waste to be found. Republicans like to say they've just made a first step, but if the first step means weakening the government function they've been demanding to strengthen, then you have to wonder how many other steps there could be. Most of what government does is either necessary, popular, or both. Now, people don't understand that -- they think there are huge savings in foreign aid, welfare, and useless bureaucracy. Republicans can win power by appealing to popular misunderstandings of the budget, but actually implementing a program on the basis of a misunderstanding of reality is quite hard.

Or simply surreal. The obvious way forward is not to deepen austerity and impede the recovery with big cuts in spending now, but to advance a plan to cut the real debt coming later. A serious Bowles-Simpson plan would not necessarily mean immediate spending cuts, but by reassuring markets and Americans that the fiscal future of America is not Greek, the confidence we desperately need would come roaring back. It would be a psychological stimulus.