Thursday, February 2, 2012

GOP War On Budgeting Update

Via Brian Beutler, a wonderful quote from John McCain, showing exactly how Republicans think about budgeting:
Let’s not let a domestic issue such as tax increases interfere…with our nation’s security.
That, in a nutshell, captures exactly how Republicans deal with the budget, and it explains almost all of the structural deficit. I have no idea whether they really believe it or if it's just the way they talk for political reasons, but it's as if there's just no recognition at all that revenues and expenditures have anything to do with each other. Which in and of itself is tough enough to defend -- but from a group of politicians who claim that "the deficit" is important, it's, well, breathtaking.

As I've argued several times, the way to square the circle is to assume that what they mean by "the deficit" has nothing whatsoever to do with, you know, the difference between federal government revenues and spending, and that in fact those two totals have nothing to do with each other. Read through Beutler's story; he gets Jon Kyl to admit that the spending cuts they support to pay for a payroll tax cut are simply spending cuts they support, regardless. Which is really what every budget argument I've heard Republicans give in the last few years boils down to: they have plenty of spending they're for and plenty they're against, and taxes they're against and more-or-less taxes they're for, but they just reject the idea of trade-offs designed to bring revenues and expenditures together. Even for someone such as McCain who presumably really cares a lot about military spending, it's as if he's entirely unaware that taxes have anything at all to do with how much spending is available. 


  1. The view that politics is just one big ideological war is a deeply immature one for political leaders in a democracy. There is also the management of the government, the use of policy to affect outcomes, and the ethical debate about what outcomes are desirable. A lot of Republicans are stuck in a Right vs. Left permanent political war paradigm. It's really unfortunate. Only someone who doesn't understand or feel comfortable with the complexity of politics would let themselves be caught up in that kind of thing.

  2. If I'm not mistaken, the Ryan budget and Ron Paul's budget were the only major budget proposals by the GOP.

    I search Newt's site, and didn't find a budget. What he has is short enough to repeat here:

    "Balance the budget by growing the economy, controlling spending, implementing money saving reforms, and replacing destructive policies and regulatory agencies with new approaches."

    Does anyone else think that's laughable? I suppose it shows what kind of candidate he is.

    Romney doesn't have a budget plan with numbers, but has an economic plan (my summary here). His new slogan is "We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in." Will he be discussing how during the campaign? I certainly hope so.

  3. But the Republican view is that federal government expenditures are so huge and so wasteful that it's ridiculous to cut good programmes because there's so much fat to cut elsewhere.

    Imagine Roger and Doris are discussing the family finances.

    Roger: We need to balance the books.
    Doris: Fine. Then sell your car.
    Roger: But I need my car.
    Doris: Ha! Then you aren't serious about balancing the books.
    Roger: We are spending $100,000 a month on your marshmallow addiction. If you give up marshmallows and the books still don't balance, we can talk.

    Roger may or may not be right about the sums, but his position is coherent and logical.

    1. Agree. Your little dialog is a good illustration of the view some people would have (and not without reason). However, if the scene could continue like this:

      Doris: It's not marshmallows, it's lettuce, and it's not $100,000. Look, you come up with your list of what what we should cut, and I'll come up with mine.

      In that case, we might have a negotiation and some progress.

  4. Small quibble, but I think the latter quote was attributed to Sen. Graham, rather than Sen. Kyl.


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