A House Democrat announced Thursday that after years of opposing cuts to federal spending, Democrats are now in favor of deep, deep spending reductions.
But there's just one catch: Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., and other Democrats are speaking in code. When Moore talked Thursday about the need to "cut spending," what she really meant was a tax hike.
What sort of leaps of intuition and wordplay are needed for a person, and a party, to equate spending cuts with tax increases? On Thursday, Moore delivered a masterclass on just how to get there, and anyone interested in what's behind Democrats' public arguments these days would do well to understand their pretzel logic.
The root of the argument is the feudal Democratic theory that says all things belong to the upper government nobility, and these things only reach the hands of the vassals when the ruling class wants that to happen. It the modern world, it means any money the government never bothered to take before was a gift, one that can be reclaimed at any time.
At a House Budget Committee hearing, Moore described money that finds its way to taxpayers as a government program, or "spending through the tax code." All those deductions for housing and childcare and charitable organizations and countless other activities are essentially a federal program.
Here are her own words:
"The tax breaks that we all voted for on Nov. 15 is spending, people," she told the hearing. "It's spending. You can say we're putting monies back into our constituents pockets, whatever you want to say. It's spending."
She even presented a chart showing that these "tax expenditures" are equal to about $1.45 trillion in "outlays." That's much bigger, she said, than the $889 billion being spent on Medicare and Medicaid.
Having established that tax breaks to various people and groups are really just a huge federal program, Moore's next step was to argue that maybe it's time to cut back this huge federal program in the name of deficit reduction. Republicans want to cut spending? Well, so do Democrats.
"What we hear, the Republican mantra, that revenue is not the problem, it's a problem of spending," she said. "I guess I can agree with that. I guess we're in agreement on that. Spending is the problem."
Of course, cutting spending on "tax expenditures" is just fancy code for "let's raise taxes." She never said "raise taxes," but that's the point of talking in code.
"Where is the greatest opportunity to cut spending?" she asked at the hearing, chastising Republicans for daring to cut things like the federal Women, Infants and Children program. "I mean, is there more money in, like, Head Start, WIC, than there is in these tax expenditures?"
For Moore, "tax expenditures" is precisely the federal program to cut.
While this twisted logical framework has taken hold among Democrats, it hasn't quite swept the nation. Moore pressed Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall to agree with her theory, and while he didn't, he offered only a meek rebuttal, as if he had to think about it for a while.
"You agree with my assessment, that tax cuts are spending?" she asked.
"Well, I don't really have an opinion on that," Hall replied.
"I'm not asking for your opinion," she snapped. "I'm asking you to tell me .. we provide tax cuts ... that is spending from the Treasury."
"Um, no, it's..."
"We're denying ourselves revenue," she said, which seemed to ring a little closer to the truth for Hall.
"Oh OK, that's true," he said.
In a further effort to distort reality, Moore ventured that actually cutting a federal program, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), wouldn't save any money, and instead would cost taxpayers even more.
"You know, food stamps are only used in countercyclical times, and if we cut food stamps, we're actually cutting revenue," she posited to the CBO chief.
"Um, well, that certainly ... I don't know in terms of whether they sort of pay for themselves in any way," Hall said.
"It's like $1.75 benefit for every dollar we spend on SNAP," Moore persisted. "And so, to block grant this, we're automatically cutting GDP."
Got all that? Tax hikes are spending cuts. Spending cuts reduce government. Up is down, down is up. We've always been at war with Eastasia.
It should be easy to grasp. Just before she spoke, she promised to make it as clear as possible.
"We really do need to get away from the sort of Washingtonian speak, and just speak plain old English that everybody understands," she said.