Ezra Klein says we already did all the discretionary spending cuts that Congress said they wanted during the Budget Control Act debate. That part of the budget cutting is now over. If there is a deal in the lame duck to avert the austerity crisis, it should contain zero discretionary spending cuts:
Imagine that Boehner and Obama end with a deal that includes $1 trillion in new spending cuts and $1 trillion in new tax increases. If the BCA cuts are included, that’s a 2:1 deal (and it becomes a 3:1 deal if you include the drawdown of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as spending cuts, as you almost certainly should, but let’s leave that out for the moment). If the BCA cuts aren’t included, it’s a 1:1 deal. And Boehner can argue that it will be very hard to sell his members on a 1:1 deal.
Note that though the politics of these two scenarios are very different, the policy is identical. Ever heard the saying “that’s a distinction without a difference?” This is a not-distinction that makes a big difference.
On Monday, the Bipartisan Policy Center released the latest iteration of the Domenici-Rivlin plan. Domenici-Rivlin, which is named for former Democratic budget director Alice Rivlin and former Republican Senator (and Budget Committee Chairman) Pete Domenici, is probably the most respected of the bipartisan plans floating about town, and they’re very clear: Of course you include the BCA’s cuts, because those cuts secured about the level of discretionary spending cuts that most plans — including Domenici-Rivlin — recommended. Here’s their slide: