A Spending Cut by Any Other Name

Conservative Dems shouldn't be fooled: The "CAP" Act would mandate huge cuts to popular domestic programs — even when there's a budget surplus.

Congress returns from a two-week recess today. But for legislators who spent the time championing the House Republicans' extreme agenda to slash federal spending, the break was more like detention. Town hall meetings across the country erupted into bedlam as members came face-to-face with the actual beneficiaries of public spending on health care, retirement, college, food supports, and more.

In Orlando, Rep. Daniel Webster was shouted down by furious constituents. "Florida has had this policy for the last 12 years," said one town-hall attendee, referring to the state's low taxes and meager public benefits. "We don't have money to take care of the poor, and unemployment is at 11 percent!"

Everyone in Washington wants big spending cuts, particularly as a concession for raising the debt limit. But few people outside Washington want spending on them to be cut. So what is a conservative Congress member to do? Enter the new Capitol Hill bipartisan policy darling, the innocuous-sounding "global spending cap." Last Tuesday, Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, became the latest lawmaker to sign on to the most prominent spending-cap proposal, the Corker-McCaskill Commitment to American Prosperity Act.