Hypocrisy runs deep in Washington’s budget debates

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hypocrisy is nothing new in Washington. The long-running debate over taxes and spending, however, is producing especially blatant examples of politicians contradicting themselves and attacking opponents for taking the same stances they’ve taken themselves.

Lawmakers denounce the deficit but refuse to let the Postal Service close money-losing offices or end Saturday delivery. They also force the Defense Department to maintain weapons systems and military bases — located in their home districts, of course — that the Pentagon wants to end.

Cries of hypocrisy grew so loud Thursday that House Speaker John Boehner got into a public spat with his party’s chief campaign overseer.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., had accused President Barack Obama of “trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors” by proposing a slower growth in Social Security benefits in exchange for new revenues. Obama’s new budget plan “really lays out kind of a shocking attack on seniors,” Walden said.

Political heads turned. Walden chairs the committee responsible for next year’s GOP House campaigns. And Republicans have portrayed themselves as courageous-but-responsible advocates of slowing the growth of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called Walden’s remarks a “flagrantly ridiculous and cynical attempt to disown a proposal that emanated from Republican leaders.”

By midday, Boehner had heard enough. “I’ve made it clear that I disagree with what Chairman Walden said,” the speaker told reporters. In fact, Boehner said, Obama’s “modest reforms” are “the least we must do to begin to solve the problems of Social Security.”

The issue infuriates Democrats, whom some Republicans accused of “gutting Medicare” during the 2010 congressional elections. Republicans based their claims on cuts in Medicare payments as part of the 2010 “Obamacare” law. Democrats called it an outrageous tactic by a party that repeatedly says Medicare is too expensive.

Democrats indulge in hypocrisy, too. In his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Obama said he would not raise taxes on the middle class or burden the poor. But his proposal for slower growth in federal cost-of-living calculations would not only trim Social Security benefits, which go to all income groups among seniors, it would slow the growth of tax breaks that mainly help lower-income people.

The president’s proposed cigarette tax increase also would disproportionately hit low-income people.

Many Democratic lawmakers call for more revenue to fight the deficit, and they support higher taxes on couples’ incomes above $250,000. They denounced a Republican budget plan that they said would “clobber the middle class.”

Their criticisms included a possible tax increase of $1,358 on households earning $100,000. That’s nearly double the nation’s median income, giving a generous meaning to the term “middle class.”

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