Rep. Bartlett: "Path To Prosperity" Won't Actually Balance The Budget

May 25, 2011 11:17 am ET — Alan Pyke

On the House floor last night, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) declared that "I was almost the fifth" Republican to vote "no" on the House GOP's 2012 budget. It's not because Bartlett objects to the "Path to Prosperity" on principle, or because the plan would essentially repeal and replace Medicare. Bartlett argued that the budget's claim of balancing the budget in 25 years is premised on "fairly robust growth" which "will not occur" because we've failed to prepare "an orderly transition to other sources of energy," and oil prices will rise sharply enough to squash U.S. growth. And more than that even, Bartlett thinks 25 years is far too slow.

Bartlett's budget comments came in the middle of an hour-long speech on peak oil and alternative fuels, which is refreshing from a House Republican:

BARTLETT: Today, in spite of finding oil in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, in spite of drilling more oil wells than all the rest of the world put together, today we produce half the oil we did in 1970. This relates to the discussion that we're having about the budget and about Medicare. Paul Ryan had a bill which he called the Roadmap, and it was a way to get at the problem of our debt and deficit, and it was pretty tough. It was so tough that only about 12 or 13 of us signed onto that Roadmap. And then we came to the budget debate and all but four republicans voted for that budget. I was almost the fifth one not to because I didn't think it was going to solve our problem. It didn't cut enough, we weren't going to balance the budget. Paul says that his budget pays down the debt. But it doesn't balance for 25 years. And to make it balance in 25 years he projects fairly robust growth. That robust growth will not occur, because as soon as the world's economy picks up and the demand for oil picks up — since we have done nothing that we were advised to do by Hyman Rickover more than 50 years ago, in planning an orderly transition to other sources of energy — when the price of oil goes up again to $125-$150 a barrel, the world's economy will be squelched. But even if you believe that our economy is going to pick up — and it won't — it still takes 25 years to balance the budget.


The Maryland congressman is right about the growth projections in the "Path to Prosperity," which were ridiculed by a range of economists when the plan was rolled out. If Bartlett wants to balance the budget much faster, he should check out the Progressive Caucus budget: it reaches balance in 10 years, but Republican leaders are pretending it doesn't exist.

For weeks now, the GOP leadership has been falsely claiming that drilling for more domestic fossil fuels will affect the price of oil on global markets. Bartlett's remarks undercut that false narrative while also making the case for investment in alternative fuels — something Democrats support, but Republicans have sought to cut at every opportunity.