Will Cutting Spending Hurt the Republicans?

Peter Beinart argues that

Over the last half-century, the Republican Party has been, at times, a genuinely anti-government party and, at times, a politically successful party. But it’s never been both at the same time. Once this fall’s elections are over, I suspect the Tea Partiers will begin learning that, the hard way.

If a post-election GOP House starts trying to cut spending, will voters punish them? Of course, as documented on this blog and others, there’s very little evidence that Republicans will want to take on federal spending in any serious way. Nevertheless, it’s difficult for libertarians to berate them for this failing if it’s essential to their political preservation. However, I think there’s a much stronger case that fiscal profligacy has undermined the Republicans in the medium term. A failed, expensive war and the image of hypocritical budget-busting & earmarking in the GOP Congresses of 2001-2006 helped doom the party to voter wrath. Now, in my view, reforming entitlements isn’t going to happen without a grand, bipartisan deal, so that neither party can take the lion’s share of the blame. But at the very least, a Republican majority should end earmarking and make serious efforts to defund unpopular programs, like the government takeover of health insurance, and programs that only benefit people who vote for them anyway, like ag subsidies.

3 thoughts on “Will Cutting Spending Hurt the Republicans?

  1. Earmarks are trivial in the overall budgetary context, the “government takeover of health insurance” isn’t unpopular (to the degree that it is unpopular, individual provisions poll much better than the bill as a whole) because of its costs, and well, people have been talking about cutting ag subsidies for a long, long time.

  2. I agree on 2 of the 3 points. Earmarks are trivial in the broad scheme, but that’s precisely why Republicans should be expected at least to deliver on that. I understand why they probably won’t – they don’t want to delegate control of spending decisions to an executive branch they don’t trust (in the most charitable phrasing), or they want to keep the power to funnel pork back to their own districts to ensure re-election (in a less charitable phrasing). Ag subsidies should be an easy one – Nebraskan farmers aren’t going to stop voting GOP because subsidies are gone, but pro-trade bankers, shippers, & intellectual types might be expected to give them some plaudits.

    HCR is partly unpopular because of the individual mandate, but polling I’ve seen shows that it’s also unpopular because of the overall price tag. Of course, individual benefits of the bill divorced from the questions of cost are frequently popular.

  3. I agree, Republicans should end earmarking and start doing what people want. They were voted into office to seek and promote the welfare of the people and this is what they should spend their time on.

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