Tax Analysts Blog

Tea Party Logic vs. Republican Opportunism

Posted on Feb 22, 2010

It is clear the Republicans are taking full advantage of freedom from the responsibility of being in power. From the bleachers they can rail against the mildly unpopular $787 billion stimulus and the wildly unpopular $700 billion bank bailout. Politically this is smart. Economically it is irresponsible. Inaction would have led to disaster.

After a quarter century hiatus, deficit reduction is returning to the top of the party program. And contrary to anti-big-government, anti-big spending principles Republicans in Congress argued against Medicare cuts proposed in the health care bill.

It is time well-spent to delve into the details of a lengthy recent report from the National Academy of Sciences ("Choosing the Nation's Fiscal Future," January 2010). The bipartisan panel of experts who authored the study looked at four possible scenarios for controlling the deficit. The low-spending/low tax option--presumably the one favored by the Republicans--would keep taxes and spending at historic levels of about 20 percent of GDP. Because of our aging population and spiraling health care costs this would squeeze the federal government like a grapefruit in a vice. The practical outcome is unthinkable in the foreseeable future: severe cutbacks in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and domestic spending.

Because it would be political suicide for the Republicans to advertise the logical outcome of their policies they don't mention it.

Now, it is hard to know exactly what the Tea Party movement stands for. That is part of its charm. True to its grass roots labelling, it has remained ungovernable by any central authority. High on the list of priorities are cuts in government spending and reduction in the federal deficit. Even though the Republicans espouse exactly the same view, the Tea Party movement keeps pushing the Republicans away. That's because the patriots know that the Republicans will cave when it comes to spending cuts. The Tea Partiers have none of the fears of mush-mouthed conventional politicians. They are not afraid to talk about deep cuts in spending even if its means cutting Medicare and Social Security.

Governor Christie of New JerseyIn prior posts I have called elected Republicans wimps. I stand by my statement--with the exception of the newly elected Governor Christie of New Jersey who has used his executive authority to cut $1 billion from 350 state programs. Tea Partiers are consistent in their views. Republicans don't want voters to take their sound bites and move them to their logical conclusion. Tea Partiers seem to be willing to take the pain of low spending in order to enjoy the pleasure of keeping taxes low. As long as they maintain this consistency they deserve respect. And you have to admire their resistance to the G.O.P.'s attempt to steal their mojo.

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