Posted by: Jeff | February 10, 2011

Sometimes You Gotta Take a Stand

Tea Partiers and other dedicated conservative representatives were not happy when the House Republicans paired their original pledge to cut $100 billion back to $35 billion. Apparently, the Republican leadership tried to pass this off as $74 billion, since the cuts only applied to a portion of the fiscal year (due to extraneous logistics) and the latter would’ve been their value if applied to the full year. But it appears the natives were having none of it:

In response to complaints from rank-and-file Republicans that the party was not fulfilling a campaign promise to roll back domestic spending this year by $100 billion, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee said his panel would abandon its initial plan and draw up a new one to slice spending more aggressively. […]

Republican leaders signaled that they now intended to seek about $25 billion in additional cuts over the balance of the fiscal year. That would bring their total proposed reductions to more than $60 billion, a level that even some Republicans have warned would be disruptive to government services.

The change was a significant complication for the new House leadership, which had hoped that their original proposal would mollify their membership while setting the stage for a compromise with the Senate and President Obama.

Meanwhile, the Republicans on the Appropriations Committee are still gunning for the full $100 billion. All in all, we’re beginning to get a better picture of the Faustian bargain Republicans made with the Tea Party in order to get back their majority in the House, and it ain’t pretty.

I should probably be worried about this. Most likely it means the center of political gravity within the government has shifted decisively in conservatives’ favor, forcing some sort of right-leaning compromise. And cuts that are even a fraction of what the Republicans are proposing will do severe damage to both the economy as a whole and to the livelihoods of millions of everyday Americans. But to be honest, in a morbid way, I sort of welcome it.

The Democrats have a breaking point (I think) but you really have to push them beyond the bounds of all sanity in order to reach it. And the Tea Partiers are showing they may just be crazy enough to go there. If they do inspire the Democrats to draw a line in the sand and say “no deal,” the most likely outcome at that point is a repeat of the government shutdowns in 1995. And we all know how well that went for the GOP.

Here’s the truth no one wants to speak: While Americans may like Republicans spending-cutting rhetoric in theory, in practice they want a government that provides a wide range of services and is able to deal with big problems effectively. And you just can’t do that without a big budget. So the ideological goals of the Republicans are unsustainable in the long run. The only question is how much damage they’re going to do before the country figures all this out.

I’m no fan of playing chicken with the country’s large-scale welfare. But by caving into the Tea Partiers this much the Republicans may be providing the Democrats with an opportunity to break the back of the conservative movement sooner rather than later. And that would be a better-than-expected outcome for everyone involved.

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Responses

  1. Jeff,

    I also read that the GOP’s calculations were based on Obama’s proposed budget of 2010 and not the final budget that was passed (this was smaller). But the GOP have left some very expensive earmarks untouched:

    1) $5 billion every year spent on ethanol subsidies that neither help the environment nor save energy

    2) $6.2 billion in tax credits for oil and gas companies

    3) $3.5 billion for an extra engine for the F-35 fighter jet that the Pentagon doesn’t want. Part of the engine is made in the district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., another part in Boehner’s district.


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