Weekly Standard Warns GOP Against "myopic focus on government spending"


Because nothing says "recovery" like "spendy-spend spend!"

The Weekly Standard l-o-v-e-s itself some Republican payback in the 2010 midterms (pictured). Lovity-loves it! There has even been some awkward embrace of a Tea Party movement (and a Rand Paul candidacy) that is as far removed from Bill Kristol's universe as David Brooks is from mine.

But don't you go getting serious about government reduction while winning one for the home team, grassrootsies! Whereas last week saw Kristol co-proposing a lockbox on the money-suck of defense spending; this week the new Standard sports a lead editorial warning incoming Republican avalanchists from going too hog-wild on that whole austerity thing. Excerpt from the Matthew Continetti column:

What might trip up the GOP? It's not that the public's demands are impossible to meet. It's that belt-tightening all too easily becomes an unhealthy obsession. Numbercrunching is a valuable skill, but it also has a tendency to crimp the political imagination. So Republicans must be careful as they trim expenses. Otherwise they'll fall into the austerity trap.

In the austerity trap, Republican congressmen get so outraged over earmarks to fund studies of the mating patterns of red-bellied newts, they neglect legislation that would foster long-term growth. Deficit anxiety causes conservative lawmakers to rule out sensible policies like a payroll tax cut. A myopic focus on government spending causes Republican leaders to short-change the defense budget and renege on America's global responsibilities. The entitlement nightmare frightens GOP candidates into framing their economic agenda in strictly negative terms.

What should Republican lawmakers do instead? Roll back "nondefense discretionary spending to pre-TARP levels" (thereby locking in George W. Bush's 60 percent hike). Maybe plug in "a simple formula to contain spending" (so advanced–it's simple!). Add in a vague "tackling the entitlement problem," spiced with a promising if politically inconceivable "tossing Obamacare onto the scrap-heap and replacing it with policies that emphasize portability, choice, and competition," and voila! You can move on to the serious and more detailed business of cutting taxes.

We take a somewhat different view

I've got nothing against cutting (and especially simplifying) taxes. But we tried taxcut-and-spend already, and it sucked. It's 2010, we're out of money, and it remains a curious thing that the forces who are making the Republican revival possible are one helluva lot more focused on cutting government spending than the forces who want to play once-and-future-kingmaker for the GOP.

If you want to get serious about cutting government, I've got a different magazine to recommend.