Monday, July 18, 2011

GOP: It's About Shrinking Government

Many have been scrambling to explain the GOP's snubbing of a potential deal to cut the deficit by $4 trillion with an 80-20 spending cut to revenue increase ratio. The party's decision to draw a line at $0 in revenue increases have left them defending things like tax breaks for yacht owners and and tax preferences for specific industrys that distort the market. And polls show that even a majority of Republicans reject the "balance the budget entirely through spending cuts" position.

Theories to explain this behavior abound: tax increases were real but spending cuts were not; anti-tax ideology is the GOP holy grail; conservative voters have become ascendant in the GOP, and that the GOP is no longer a "normal party."

My view is that this is not as much about opposition to eliminating specific tax breaks as it is about shrinking the power of government. The ideology dictates that revenue increases are absolutely prohibited in order to starve government as much as possible. If this position requires us to defend indefensible tax policy - so be it, the end justfies the means.

The spending binge of the last decade when the government was generally under GOP control surely infuriated conservatives, but an even greater frustration has been their inability to cut back on governmental regulatory authority.

The core reason for this is that their anti-regulatory agenda is generally unpopular. People like a clean environment; they want safety where they work; they want their food and water to be pure. When crisis strikes - people demand a government response -- fix the housing market, make sure banks don't engage in risky practices; test vegetables for e-coli; prevent oil wells from exploding underwater. In a straight up fight on health, safety & environmental regulations - the GOP positions loses, and loses pretty bad.

The only effective way then for the GOP to promote its small government message is by subterfuge. Don't fight government regulatory programs on their merits -- but cut the budgets of these agencies, make them hire fewer regulators and inspectors, diminish their capacity.

If your core goal is shrinking government (not achieving long term deficit reduction, or protecting the wealthiest of taxpayers, which I don't think are the core goals of today's GOP) then the "no new revenues" bargaining position makes sense.

No comments:

Post a Comment