Saturday, July 16, 2011

Republicans Motivated By Shrinking The Government, Not Deficit

Writing in the New York Times, Jackie Calmes states that the Republicans are not motivated by lowering the deficit, a point made elsewhere by Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks. Their entire strategy is that of “starving the beast,” shrinking government by lowering taxes, especially for the wealthy, to the point that we can’t afford to cover needed programs–and then calling for those programs to be cut. Today’s GOP is to way the right of the idolized Ronald Reagan–and cannot be satisfied by any of President Obama's concessions in the debt ceiling negotiations:

Republicans have shown that their higher priority is not lower deficits, as it was for the party through most of the last century, but a smaller government. House Republicans in the spring passed a plan that would not balance the budget for three decades despite deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid — largely because it also deeply cut taxes, adding debt.

For Republicans, “reducing the deficit implies tax increases, or the possibility of tax increases, and that’s not something they want to do under any circumstances because it doesn’t suit their political needs,” said Stan Collender, a longtime federal budget analyst and a partner at Qorvis Communications.

The party’s dynamic in the debt talks reflects the culmination of a 30-year evolution in Republican thinking, dating to the start of President Ronald Reagan’s administration. The change is from emphasizing balanced budgets — or at least lower deficits — to what tax-cutting conservatives have called “starve the beast,” that is, cut taxes and force government to shrink.

The starve-the-beast philosophy is even more problematic now because the population is aging as baby boomers retire even as medical costs keep rising — a combination that is driving the projections of an unsustainably growing federal debt.

While the new-generation Republicans venerate Mr. Reagan, those who were in Congress when he was president say he would not understand their refusal to compromise on a package of the size Mr. Obama proposes.

“He had a rule: If you can agree on 80 percent, take it,” said Alan K. Simpson, who was the second-ranking Senate Republican leader back then. “He raised taxes 11 times in eight years,” Mr. Simpson added. “He did it to make the country run.”

Almost lost in the tax debate with Republicans is how much Mr. Obama has conceded to them this year on spending cuts, including for those entitlement programs Democrats favor.

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