This column by Frank Cagle does a pretty good job of capturing the way I feel right now about the fiscal behavior of the Republican Party over the last several years. To the extent I’m a Republican, I’m a member of the “fiscal-conservative small-government don’t-tread-on-me wing of the party” and I’ve had enough.

The thing about the GOP leadership response to Operation Offset (and to the out of control budget more generally) that pushed me over the line was DeLay’s comment to the effect that there’s no fat in the budget to cut. I could be sympathetic to an argument that they couldn’t find enough support in Congress for major spending cuts, or that there were higher legislative priorities requiring the expenditure of limited political capital, or that trying to cut would be pointless because the White House would have vetoed it. (That last being more plausible in the 90’s than now, of course.) But DeLay’s comment indicates that it is not the case that the current party leadership is unhappy with the budget but can’t address it due to other constraints. Rather, DeLay’s comment indicates that the current party leadership is happy with the budget as it is now. They think they’ve cut enough, and that the government has already been reduced to a size of which they approve.

This is, from my point of view, completely insane. Moreover, it’s an insult to my intelligence.

Congratulations, guys. Faced with the most inept opposition party I can remember in my entire adult life, you’ve managed to put a margin-of-victory sized bloc of your own supporters into play. Faced with upcoming mid-term and presidential elections that will hinge on turnout, and with a turnout system based on volunteer work, you’ve alienated and demoralized a large chunk of your base.

No wonder you’re known as the Stupid Party.

You’ve still got a slim chance to redeem yourselves. A few months from now it’ll be too late. Consider yourself warned.

7 Responses to “Operation Offset and GOP Profligacy”
  1. Sigivald says:

    On the other hand, anyone who would have voted GOP that now votes for an independent knows they’re pretty much guaranteeing a Democrat victory, if anyone follows them. (And of course anyone that votes Democrat does that directly).

    So the question is, why would anyone worried about government spending ever vote Democrat?

    I mean, I can’t seriously imagine the Democrats spending less than the GOP, though I can imagine them raising taxes to “pay” for their increased spending, and trashing the economy as a side effect that they’ll swear they never could have foreseen, even though everyone’s been telling them about it for decades.

    That’s about the most counter-productive protest I can imagine, if the goal is real reduction in spending.

    (Heck, the only party I half trust to reduce spending is the Libertarians, and I don’t think I’ll ever vote LP again, given that the LP is even more stupid-crazy than it used to be. Spending less isn’t sufficient to overcome gonzo stupid-crazy.)

  2. Kyle Haight says:

    If neither party is acceptable, I prefer to punish the one that stabbed me in the back. The Democrats never promised to shrink the government. The Republicans did. On this issue, the Democrats are evil and the Republicans are traitors.

    Granted that Democratic tax hikes will damage the economy — what do you think will happen as a result of excessive Republican borrowing? That’ll trash the economy as well.

    Ideally we should work to defeat Republicans who don’t work to shrink government and support the ones who back up their rhetoric with action. The GOP needs to understand that ‘business as usual’ will get them kicked out of power. Putting the point another way, the goal is to teach the Republicans that their supporters want spending cut. If that requires returning the Democrats to power for a few years until the lesson sinks in, so be it. If the Republicans learn that they can bust the budget as though they were Democrats and face no repurcussions, what long-term effect will *that* have on spending? Try to extend your time threshold beyond the next election cycle.

  3. Luke Davis says:

    Extending my timetable in both directions, it strikes me that this sort of silent punishment (“silent” because even if the GOP loses the next set of elections, they will almost undoubtedly not understand who they lost or why) of the unacceptable party by choosing another uncceptable party is part of what perpetuates a system of unacceptable parties. Your response presumes that your punishment will be noticed, recognized as punishment, and understood by the party you’re punishing; however, thinking seriously turns up the fact that even if it is noticed, it probably won’t be recognized as deliberate punishment, and even if it is recognized, the reason will almost undoubtedly escape them.

    The problem is, as Douglas Adams so aptly put it, the lizards stay in power because we always have more than one lizard to choose from. Choosing a lizard does not teach the not-chosen lizard a lesson; it perpetuates the lizard system.

  4. Tom says:

    Factual quibble? I believe that while Democratic presidents were in power during the 20th century, and had an ongoing war, non-military spending shrunk in every war except Vietnam.

    Maybe I’m an optimist, but I can certainly imagine the Democratic party spending less than the GOP. Not half as much, but moderating this current budget by a hundred billion and upping taxes by a hundred billion.

    Which, IMHO, would be *good* for the economy.

  5. Kyle Haight says:

    The modern Democratic party bears little resemblance to the party of FDR or Wilson. I suspect using their behavior in the 1940s as a basis for projecting their likely behavior now is studying apples to project the actions of oranges.

    I’d be more likely to believe that the current Democratic party would cut spending if they’d been criticizing Bush for spending too much. But they haven’t — their criticisms are in terms of “financial responsibility”, which coming from a Democrat means “tax increase” and nothing else. (I had a discussion on this topic with my liberal Democratic boss. I challenged her to name specific things she thought should be cut from the budget, and she couldn’t come up with a single thing. She did want to repeal the Bush tax cuts, though, i.e. she wanted to raise taxes.) Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I think a more likely scenario under the Democrats would be increasing the size of the budget by $300 billion and increasing taxes by $500 billion.

    With respect to Luke’s comments, the lesson I draw from that is that small-government advocates who are withdrawing their support of the GOP must tell them why. Loudly, explicitly and repeatedly. Not donating any more money to the GOP? Write them a letter and tell them why. Not going to vote for your GOP congressman or senator? Call their office and tell them why.

    Think of it this way. I have a choice between two parties. Party A is uniformly hostile to my political values. Party B is becoming increasingly hostile to my political values. What course of action best serves me to advance my values over the long term? Keeping Party A out of power at the cost of allowing Party B to become more hostile to my values, or showing Party B that hostility to my values is a losing strategy at the cost of allowing Party A to hold power for a few years?

  6. Luke Davis says:

    So long as it is made explicitly clear to the party why the voter is not voting for that party, it seems more reasonable to not vote for that party. (That is, what you’re saying makes more sense than continuing to vote for the Republicans)

    But, if we keep letting these two parties dominate our government, aren’t we fighting a war we can’t win, in hopes of winning a battle here and there? (That is, is there some third external-to-the-system option?)

  7. Kyle Haight says:

    The first-past-the-post electoral system of the United States pretty much guarantees that there will be two major parties and that minor parties will never make significant electoral inroads in their own right. When the constituencies of minor parties become large enough to impact the outcomes of elections their agendas will tend to be assimilated by one of the major parties.

    I think the “external-to-the-system” option you are looking for is cultural activism. Over the long term, the waning of small-government support in the major political parties is a response to a waning of the cultural underpinnings of laissez-faire in the culture at large. If those underpinnings are reinvigorated in the culture, the politics will shift as well.

Leave a Reply