11 August 2010

Cut Spending?

In follow-up to my recent post about Republican financial amnesia, let's look at their promises, as well. Incidentally, I first addressed this theme in a lengthy post about House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's YouCut stunt.

The playbook is very old: the GOP promises specific taxcuts (Let's cut income taxes by 5%, and stop chaining the people who provide jobs in this country) and nonspecific spending cuts (Let's end this pork barrel spending and out-of-control Washington madness). It's a great tactic, and it usually works (unless a reporter presses you for a specific program cut).

This dissonance relies on a frequently-indicated problem in politics: most people dislike the general state of politicians/laws/entitlements, while still actually liking those politicians/laws/entitlements in which they feel personally invested. People hate the faceless general and love the personified specific. It's why the people disapprove of Congress' performance to a tune of 72% while still having a 95% retention rate. People might moan about pork-barrel spending waste in the bar at night with their buddies, but when it comes to the actual vote in the ballot booth, people tend to remember that their Senator was the one who got that factory built (it's not pork if it helps you).

Unfortunately for the GOP, the refrain is starting to get a little old. Serious proposals like Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) are purposefully ignored and instead a lot of time is wasted on theatrics - Republican Senators like to rant about poorly-chosen stimulus funds. (Yes, why would we ever want to do animal testing to study self-administration of drugs? Who could that possibly help?)

The Economist today makes this criticism sharply in the face of Republican proposals for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution - an absurd change that would make any deficit unconstitutional.

Today, a serious Republican would lay out specific long-term plans for cutting the deficit. He would explain where he would make cuts and how he planned to rein in entitlement spending. If he refused to raise taxes, he'd agree to slash more. He wouldn't propose a balanced-budget amendment; he'd propose a balanced budget. ... It's as if we are supposed to take it on faith that Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline, details to come later. But Republicans have not earned that faith. As we all know, spending soared under George Bush, even when Republicans controlled Congress.

Maybe there's only so many times they can chant their mantra before people stop listening and start looking for actual solutions?

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