Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Only 5% of Ron Johnon's $1.4 Trillion in Federal Budget Cuts actually came from Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson took to the pages of Journal Sentinel on Tuesday to discuss the federal budget deficit. Now, in the past we've criticized the Senator for omitting data from his missives to the masses and Johnson seems to have taken this criticism to heart. Unfortunately, he's basically compensating for all the prior lack of data with an overload in this op-ed.

Johnson spends the first 4/5ths of the essay explaining the current budget deficit using numerous facts, figures and statistics before arriving at the crux of his argument:
What I have described above is a problem of spending too much, not taxing too little. So the solution lies in finding ways to limit the growth in government, not figuring out how to take more from hardworking Americans. Recent reports out of the supercommittee are not encouraging. Even though there have been hundreds of suggestions for common-sense ways to restrain spending and limiting the growth of government - including $1.4 trillion in reductions that I have recommended - it appears Democrats are insisting on tax increases as the price for any meaningful spending restraint.

I realize that it might be politically popular to insist on tax increases for the "rich." But I hope Americans - and supercommittee members - ask a simple question regarding any proposed tax increase: How many jobs will that tax increase create and how will it help our economy grow?
Answering this question for his readers seems to have escaped Johnson. It's only the massively important detail upon which his entire argument hinges, but let's save that for another day.

In the previous paragraph Johnson plugs his $1.4 trillion spending reduction pan. The problem with Johnson's plan is that it doesn't cut the budget deficit at all.

Johnson's proposed cuts are over ten years and apply only to non-discretionary spending. He doesn't include any cuts into mandatory spending programs like Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security -- the Holy Trinity of on entitlement programs -- which cost an additional $4.796 trillion between 2012-2020 on top
$1.568 trillion we'll be spending on those programs this year. So even if all of Johnson's cuts gutted the budget, we'd still be -- at the very minimum -- $18.4 trillion in the red. The deficit would likely be in even worse shape since Johnson also wants slash revenue, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Johnson's thumbing his chest over a plan that would make the very problem he's trying to address worse.

Making matters even more ridiculous, Ron Johnson's plan isn't even Ron Johnson's.

First of all, here's the report which details the proposed $1,383,044,000,000. Don't feel like you need to do anything more than skim it for the time being.

Sen Johnson Report                                                           

Johnson's "report" is really just a list of 58 ways to reduce federal non-discretionary spending. Most of the proposals, like "eliminate redundant information technology at the Dept of Interior," sound inoccuous. Other, like "Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act," are most certainly not. But what most striking about the report is just how little Johnson's contribution to it is.

The report is largely based on recommendations from only nine previously published sources, three of which are only mentioned once (a trick every high schooler knows is the best way to pad a bibliography), and relies heavily on a similar report published by Sen. Tom Coburn's office. In fact, Coburn's recommendations account for a whopping 45.8% of the value of the suggested cuts (about $632 billion). Johnson's staff's contribution to his own report accounts for only 5.4% of the report's total recommendations (just over $74 billion). No wonder Vicki Mckenna said "it wasn't even hard" to find so much savings -- someone else had already done the hard work.

Or, to put it in the lingo of Ayn Rand: Ron Johnson is policy looter.

Johnson has been guilty this kind of policy plagiarism before. During his 2010 run for office his campaign repeatedly used a "report" from Sens. John McCain and -- you guessed it! -- Tom Coburn which outlined supposedly wasteful projects. Why Coburn? Probably because he's serving as Johnson's mentor during his first year in the Senate.

It's not necessarily a bad thing to draw heavily from the works of others or to wander through the cafeteria of ideas picking freely from an a la carte menu, but this "report" betrays an intellectual laziness and dependence that's tantamount to trying to get the answers to the test from the kid sitting next to you. In his Journal Sentinel op-ed Johnson claims that some of the "common-sense ways to restrain spending and limiting the growth of government" includes the "$1.4 trillion in reductions that I have recommended." He's done no such thing and  be called out for it.

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