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Take a look at Senior Editor Brian Doherty’s piece “Congress After Ron Paul” (page 18). There you will see interviews with three new and one returning GOP member of Congress who speak a different language than the generation of Republicans who preceded them. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky favors cutting military spending, and says, “A lot of domestic programs I cannot find a constitutional basis for.” Florida’s Ted Yoho says out loud what Republicans have long since stopped thinking: eliminate the Department of Education. And Michigan’s Justin Amash, the House’s heir apparent to Ron Paul, criticizes his colleagues for being “afraid” that “if they are too bold they will be voted out of office.”
These are not Karl Rove’s Republicans. They’re not John Boehner’s either—the speaker purged Amash from the House Budget Committee in December, and Amash returned the favor by leading a failed revolt against Boehner’s leadership when the 113th Congress was sworn in.
James Buchanan taught us all that in politics and governance, incentives matter. As the fiscal cliff gives way to the debt ceiling impasse and other artificial deadlines to come, intriguing questions linger. Can we finally create incentives to reward politicians who peel the curtain back on the fiscal illusion? Will the GOP, at long bloody last, take concrete steps to cut government?
The spending denialists might hold the upper hand for the moment, but their political future—and our economic prospects—are brushing up against another truism about deficit spending, made famous by the late Herbert Stein: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”