Rick Perry’s Tax and Spending Reform Plan: Solid on Taxes, Timid and Unserious on Spending

So Rick Perry unveiled his tax and spending reform plan. (His Wall Street Journal piece provides a brief overview.) It’s a serious compilation of a variety of solid conservative ideas for reforming the federal government. Serious, that is, in every area except spending.

But before we get to the sour let’s look at the sweet. There is a great deal to like in Perry’s proposals:

  • Repealing ObamaCare (though this is pretty much a requirement for every Republican office-seeker these days)
  • Repealing Dodd-Frank (which has held down the economy in many ways great and small)
  • A 20% flat tax is a vast improvement over the labyrinth complexities of our special-interest-group-carve-out-ridden Swiss cheese of a tax code. Also, you have to admire this graphic, which should have liberal knees jerking:

  • Eliminating the tax on dividends and long term capital gains is a big win that will help revive the economy and restore global competitiveness.
  • As is eliminating the death tax (although if it were possible to entirely fund the government from an estate tax rather than an income tax, that would be preferable, but it isn’t).
  • Eliminating corporate loopholes and tax breaks is also a great idea, but at this point it’s just a vague notion. Just about any candidate of any party could say the same thing, and without a list of the actual loopholes to be eliminated it’s fairly meaningless. This is also an area where few proposals survive contact with congress.
  • Reducing the corporate tax rate to 20% is a great idea, and one long championed by many free market economists.
  • The Perry plan has a lot of good ideas for reducing the regulatory burden on American business. A moratorium on all pending legislation, automatic sunset provisions, and a full audit of all regulations enacted since 2008 should go a long way toward undoing the Obama regulatory burden and getting American business and hiring back on track.
  • So outside of the budget provisions, there is an awful lot for conservatives to like about the Perry plan.

    Even when it comes to the budget section, there’s a lot of conservative red meat: a non-tax hike balanced budget amendment, an end to baseline budgeting and concurrent resolutions (which bake bigger government into the process), and an end to earmarks. All solid initiatives, though the problem here is less presidential will than getting them through congress.

    So, given all that, what am I complaining about?

    What makes the Perry budget timid and unserious is his proposal to “balance the budget by 2020.” Given the way Washington works, a promise to balance the budget eight years from now is a promise to never balance the budget. It’s tea so weak it might as well be water. A balanced budget target that far out means that Congress can keep putting off difficult decisions by passing bills that place imaginary savings in out years where they will soon be rendered moot by the next congress. It’s once again a chance to sell out budget discipline for a handful of magic beans.

    It’s, yet again, kicking the can down the road.

    It’s also a big step back from the Ryan plan, which demanded a balanced budget in the 2015 timeframe. This was the plan seen by conservative Republicans and Tea Party activists as the minimum necessary for a serious reduction in the federal budget deficit. Given serious action wasn’t taken for it this year, it’s reasonable to push it that deadline out one more year to 2016, but pushing the target out beyond that amounts to preemptive surrender.

    While Perry’s $100 billion first year down-payment would be an improvement over the weak, phony-baloney deficit reduction enacted as part of the debt limit deal, it’s a ridiculously small cut for the $1 trillion+ Obama deficits being racked up each fiscal year.

    Bad as it is as policy, the Perry 2020 date is utterly disasterous as an opening position for negotiations with congress. Perry is going to have to set hard, early deficit targets to have any chance of taming the Leviathan, and then use his veto pen early and often if he doesn’t get them. The truth is that Democrats will scream bloody murder at any attempt at deficit reduction, so the next President might as well (to use the classic Ronald Reagan analogy) “throw long.” Every debt ceiling vote will have to come with both serious budget cuts and the other budget-taming proposals in the Perry plan. Democrats may still filibuster, but then they’ll have to deal with the crushing realities of living under a budget that actual matches spending to revenues. Even with a Republican House and Senate, to actually balance the budget the next President will need to push relentlessly to pass the most stringent budget that can muster 51 senator votes via reconciliation. Setting a 2020 date does nothing to prepare the media and ideological battlespaces for those difficult choices.

    Out-of-control federal spending is at the heart of almost all our economic problems, and the single biggest factor behind Tea Party discontent. Thus it has to be at the top of the next President’s agenda. Despite many other solid economic idea, the Perry plan doesn’t meet the test for serious deficit reduction. The shame is that Perry accomplished real spending reform in Texas. To impose such discipline on the out-of-control federal budge will be an order of magnitude more difficult. But to achieve real spending reform, you first have to campaign for it. Setting a goal for a balanced budget at the end of a theoretical Perry presidency’s second term rather than the first actually hampers that goal.

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    4 Responses to “Rick Perry’s Tax and Spending Reform Plan: Solid on Taxes, Timid and Unserious on Spending”

    1. Unilaterally naming the various things you’d cut is a sure way of never being elected.

    2. Lawrence Person says:

      Not naming what you’re willing to cut is a sure way of never cutting anything. Ronald Reagan named things he was willing to cut and still got elected. Alas, his follow-through on that wasn’t as good as it was on cutting taxes.

      I believe that the outrageous Obama deficits have made all sorts of election taboos about cutting spending and reforming entitlements obsolete. if the voting public wants uncontrolled deficits to continue until they destroy the economy, then they should indeed be voting for Democrats. Republicans should campaign as they intend to govern: A choice, not an echo.

    3. This post is complete toolishness. Wah wah wah. Perry is the only fucking candidate to actively campaign on personal accounts for people in Social Security. He has far more details than any other candidate BY FAR on cutting spending. He’s put out the most specific plan of any candidate. Puting [sic] himself on the line more than anyone. Then you just fucking shit all over it. Fuck you. You are why we don’t have right of center reforms in this country and why liberals cram Obamacare down our throats. Fuck you. Pull your head out of your ass, you fucking douche.

    4. […] I have criticized Perry’s campaign budget proposals for being too timid, Perry insisted on balancing the Texas budget without tax hikes. I assure you that California would […]

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