Like most Republicans, Florida Senate hopeful Marco Rubio has taken to attacking President Obama on debt and deficits. Rubio hit Obama on the deficit in a June interview with Newsmax, and on the "Cutting Government Spending" section of his website, Rubio promised to support measures that would "control the excessive and wasteful spending in Washington that threatens to leave future generations with crushing debt." To that end, Rubio recently released his 12-point plan to "Grow Our Economy." Among other things, Rubio's plan would permanently extend the Bush tax cuts, cut taxes on American businesses, end the estate tax, reform the alternative minimum tax, and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
After reading through the plan, I decided to see if his debt-cutting prescriptions would meet the goal set in a recent
report by the Peterson-Pew commission. In the report, the commission pushes policy-makers to stabilize the federal debt at 60 percent of GDP by 2018 in order to avoid a genuine fiscal crisis (currently, debt is predicted to grow to 85 percent of GDP by 2018). To do this, I used the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget's budget simulator and plugged in Rubio's recommendations. Rubio's plan didn't address every aspect of the calculator, so I turned to the issues page on his website for inspiration on issues like defense and Social Security.
Unsurprisingly, Rubio's plan doesn't come close to meeting those targets. Insofar that Rubio's plan saves any money, it's by canceling TARP and making drastic cuts in social services. Even then, those cuts would only save $640 billion. By contrast, Rubio's plan to extend the Bush tax cuts and repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase the debt by $3.4 trillion. At best, Rubio's plan would bring U.S. debt to 79 percent of GDP by 2018.
Of course, if Rubio wins his election this fall, he'll be the junior senator from Florida, not dictator of the United States. And barring a drastic change in our institutions and leadership, Rubio's "12 Simple Ways To Grow Our Economy" will never come to fruition. Still, this should be counted as further evidence that Republicans are completely unserious about the deficit. Like his GOP fellow travelers, Rubio's rhetorical attachment to debt reduction is betrayed by his total commitment to policies aimed squarely at enriching the privileged.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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