Election 2014

Meet the New, Big-Spending GOP Senators! Same as the Old, Big-Spending GOP Senators?

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If election prognosticators are correct, the Republican Party is likely to take control of the Senate.

So how is that likely to influence federal policy on spending, debt, and cronyism?

One way to get an indication is to look at the Republican senatorial challengers who if successful today would flip a Democratic Senate seat to the GOP. I looked at the candidates' campaign sites to see where they line up when it comes to reducing the size, scope, and spending of the federal government.

If the following people win—and stay true to their campaign promises—there is no reason to believe a GOP Senate will cut spending or shrink the government.

Meet your potential new bosses, then. Same as the old ones.

Dan Sullivan, Alaska: Sullivan's campaign site makes it clear that he would be a typical Alaskan politician in Washington when it comes to seeking to tap federal taxpayers to fund largesse back in the state. He touts his opposition to Obamacare and makes the standard call to rein in spending, reform the tax code, and cut red tape. However, he doesn't offer any details and his focus on delivering pork to Alaska undermines his professed concern about Washington's spending-driven debt problem.

Tom Cotton, Arkansas: The section of Cotton's campaign site that offers the clearest view of his policy stances is the one that attempts to rebut his opponent's claims and criticisms. Unfortunately, the section largely amounts to Cotton pointing out the various instances in which he indeed supported federal spending. From farm subsidies to entitlements, Cotton makes it clear that he is—contra his opponent's claims—a supporter of government programs. Interestingly, his latest campaign video concludes with a call for "less government and more freedom." It's hard to reconcile that stated aim with the message conveyed by his website.

Cory Gardner, Colorado: Gardner's site touts his "4-corners" plan for Colorado, which turns out to be a smorgasbord of contradictions. For instance, Gardner says that he supports "flatter and fairer" federal tax codes; however, his support for numerous tax breaks for various special interests undermines that claim. On education, Gardner says "keep Congress out of the classroom" while simultaneously stating his support for various federal education programs. Gardner notes his support for a balanced-budget amendment but he offers no details on what he would cut to achieve balance. His claim that he has "has fought to reduce [the $17 trillion plus national debt] by examining waste, fraud, and abuse in all sectors of government" is as vacuous as it is unfeasible. When it comes to the real driver of the national debt—old-age entitlement programs—Gardner states that he wishes to "strengthen Medicare and Social Security."

Joni Ernst, Iowa: Ernst's site makes it clear that she would represent a near-complete change of pace from retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, a progressive Democrat. Ernst says a lot of the "right" things when it comes to free markets, taxes, and regulations. On this issue of federal spending, however, the Ernst campaign site is noticeably lacking in details. On federal entitlements, Ernst promises to "protect Medicare and Social Security"; she says she supports reforms that will "ensure the long-term health of both programs for her daughters and grandchildren and their generations." That's a politically practical approach, but the reality is that her grandchildren are going to take it on the chin unless Sen. Ernst and her colleagues take the bolder approach of shrinking the entitlement welfare state. In addition, her support for a balanced-budget amendment while failing to explain what she would cut to achieve balance is disappointing. Her support of the U.S. government's costly global military presence will also considerably complicate efforts to eliminate deficit spending.

Bill Cassidy, Louisiana: Cassidy's campaign site calls for "free-market health care solutions that give patients the power" and says that "out-of-control spending" needs to be stopped. On health care, Cassidy deserves credit for proposed reforms. However, rather than a free-market for health care, Cassidy supports adjustments to the federal government's already oversized role. As for how Cassidy would attack the spending that he says is out of control, his website simply doesn't say. He's against earmarks, but is he against federal grant and loan programs that are essentially different means to the same end? Given his support for keeping federal flood insurance premiums low in order to keep his flood-prone constituents happy, the answer is probably no.

Steve Daines, Montana: Daines' campaign site calls for "More Jobs, Less Government." However, the slogan is curious given that Daines doesn't lay out a vision for less government other than to tout his support for a balanced-budget amendment and a promise to "stop Washington's wasteful spending." To the contrary, Daines touts his commitment to spending more taxpayer dollars on seniors, veterans, women, and Indian tribes.

Thom Tillis, North Carolina: Tillis's campaign site says that he "will work to shrink the size of our federal government to its core Constitutional role so the private sector can thrive." Sounds good. He sounds the right notes on issues such as repealing Obamacare, reining in federal regulations, and ending the bailout mentality in Washington. His site also says that "he believes we must restore the original intention of the Constitution and redirect the federal government toward the purposes our founding fathers intended." That's fine, but it's not clear what Tillis believes those purposes to be. Does he think that the federal government's overgrown system of entitlement programs is in line with intentions of the Constitution's authors?  Or what about the vast military empire that sprung up more than 150 years after the ink dried on our founding document? We'll have to wait and see.

Mike Rounds, South Dakota: Rounds' site touts an "approach to limited government [that] is most in line with South Dakota values." On the bright side, Rounds calls for local control of education and the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education. He also calls for deference to local units of government when it comes to regulation. However, Rounds' support for a balanced-budget amendment typically lacks details on what he would cut in order to achieve balance (he says he's against tax increases, so the balancing would have to come from spending cuts). Compounding the lack of specifics is a promise to protect Medicare spending and a disavowal of Paul Ryan's proposed entitlement reforms. Rounds cites the federal government's unsustainable fiscal trajectory, which is being driven by entitlement spending, but his overall stance would indicate that he's unprepared to do anything about it.

Shelley Capito, West Virginia: Other than pledging to protect the coal industry, Capito's campaign site is devoid of any information on her policy stances. 

The bottom line is that anyone who is hoping that a GOP takeover will bring small government to town will be deeply disappointed.

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  1. Sullivan’s campaign site makes it clear that he would be a typical Alaskan politician in Washington when it comes to seeking to tap federal taxpayers to fund largesse back in the state.

    Via a series of tubes, no doubt.

    1. The bottom line is that anyone who is hoping that a GOP takeover will bring small government to town will be deeply disappointed.

      Bottom line: the pillaging of Freedom’s ass will persist unabated.

  2. Jodi Ernst, Iowa Try Joni.

    Whatever her faults may be, she is saving us from the utter shame and indignity that living with Bruce Braley for 5 or 6 terms would have foisted on Iowans.

  3. The bottom line is that anyone who is hoping that a GOP takeover will bring small government to town will be deeply disappointed.

    The choice between establishment Republicans and Democrats is, indeed, often between big government and even bigger government, but the lesser of two evils is still lesser. And within the GOP, there are people and groups that support small government. Within the Democrats, not so much. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    1. This is more like letting the broken leg be the enemy of two broken legs.

    2. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

    3. We already tried your way. 2000-2006 didn’t work.

      “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

      Don’t misuse this truism to justify support for one sack of crap over another.

      1. “We already tried your way. 2000-2006 didn’t work.”

        That was with a Republican President. With a Democratic President, a Republican Congress is apt to be much more fiscally conservative.

      2. 2000-2006 didn’t work

        I am pretty sure a Gore administration would have been worse.

        1. I am pretty sure this is the saddest comeback ever.

          1. We do this all the time by taking drugs that make us sick to alleviate disease that makes us sicker. Nothing unusual or unrealistic about choosing between bad & worse.

    4. Name one time in your lifetime Republicans have enacted policies that resulted in less government–whatever the fuck that means to you.

      1. At the state level: Walker’s Act 10. Various midwestern tax cuts.

        1. Small government means union busting and tax cuts? Those sound like items on the Chamber of Commerce plutocracy agenda, but whatever.

          1. Tony, you appear to be moving the Goal Posts.

            1. I didn’t set any up. I want to know what small government means. If it means taking power from workers and the poor and handing it to the rich, just say so, but I’m not sure how it relates to the actual content of the slogan.

      2. “Balanced Budget Act of 1997”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B…..ct_of_1997

      3. The end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 comes to mind.

  4. Republican politicians do this because they know they can. No matter what the reality has been or is, they can count on enough sheeple to bleat that if something is associated with Team Red, then it must involve smaller, less intrusive government, even when the opposite is demonstrably true. Someone once argued seriously to me that drug prohibition must involve smaller, less intrusive government because he associates it with Team Red. Then there are the Republican voters who don’t want smaller government, but instead want “smaller” government, as long as it is still big enough to give them free stuff and protect their right not to be offended.

    1. if something is associated with Team Red, then it must involve smaller, less intrusive government, even when the opposite is demonstrably true.

      It’s like Washington “spending cuts”, Doc: smaller, less intrusive government than you *could* have gotten.

    2. Someone once argued seriously to me that drug prohibition must involve smaller, less intrusive government because he associates it with Team Red.

      You did inform him that he was so retarded it was a shock he had enough brain power to keep his involuntary bodily functions going, right?

    1. Meh, I always think those type of gotcha pictures just make the person in the background look like an ass.

  5. Thom Tillis actually has a very good record on reducing spending as head of the NC House. He’s also been good on refusing to spend on giveaway to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers for a stadium, in defeating an attempting (including by some in the NCGOP) to block Tesla, in keeping Uber from being banned by North Carolina cities, and also in simplifying the NC tax system (cutting all sorts of tax breaks from film slush funds to special farming tax breaks.)

    Of course, this makes him the least likely to win of those competitors. Voters like spending and cronyism.

    1. Yeah, I’m generally not a fan of the GOP, but Tillis got my vote.

  6. Ahem:

    “NO, FUCK YOU, CUT SPENDING.”

  7. The bottom line is that anyone who is hoping that a GOP takeover will bring small government to town will be deeply disappointed.

    I, for one, never thought that it would. I think the best that can be hoped is to stop the leftward slide under Obama. And maybe – just maybe – do something about repealing Obamacare or the individual mandate. But I have little hope of even that.

  8. You should be less pessimistic. Among Republican politicians who’ve been around awhile, sure, small government is absolutely nothing but an empty slogan meant to trick poor white people into voting to take all those goodies away from the negroes. But among the upstart lunatics who’ve taken over the House, they really mean it. They’ll cut government in half if given the chance. Then, obviously, utopia, courtesy of the likes of Louis Gohmert.

    1. No one promises Utopia, the objective is to prevent disaster by the fools looking for it.

      1. Good point, toolkien.

        BTW, you don’t happen to be some sort of smith or tool maker, do you?

    2. I got news for ya, sonny – they’ll have to do better than take away “goodies” from just “negroes” if they want to shrink government. There’s as many – if not more – whites getting those goodies, too. Nor are they limited to only the poor – leastwise, not what I’d call poor. BTW, you do realize that blacks are only about twelve percent of the total population?

      1. That was addressed to Tony.

      2. Yet they have been the prime motivator of conservative politics for decades.

        1. Maybe if you and other progressives stopped accusing everyone who doesn’t share your views of being a racist sexist homophobe, your TEAM wouldn’t get the beating its getting today.

          1. It’s the only excuse for an argument they have, CW.

          2. This is one of the worst maps for Democrats in recent history. Yet in red states senate races are practically tied. This is Republicans doing poorly, even if they win.

            And if you don’t share my views that brown and gay people deserve equal rights, you are by definition a racist and a homophobe.

        2. More likely the prime motivator of liberal politics and policies – if you are referring to black people. Unfortunately the libs haven’t done much for them either.

          1. They must be really stupid to keep voting liberal nearly unanimously.

            1. Or maybe just dishonest. Socialism is for suckers and losers. Some black folk know that, believe it or not.

    3. Hmm, I thought I smelled shit.

  9. So how is that likely to influence federal policy on spending, debt, and cronyism?

    It’s a mystery.

    But don’t worry. Stupid limitless spending is okay when Republicans do it.

  10. Republicanism-staving off fiscal, economic, and monetary disaster a skosh longer than Democrats. You have our word in it!

    It was in the fine print of the Contract With America…

  11. Steve Daines made repeated promises “never to touch Medicare.”

    It’s such a shame the older generations are perfectly happy passing on their bills to the young and unborn. It’s all the worse when even the “fiscally responsible” Republicans won’t stop it.

  12. My dad is so invested in Cotton that I expected to see at least something vaguely conservative on that link. Here’s what it looked like to me:
    PRYOR: “You’re a fiscal conservative of some kind!”
    COTTON: “Filthy lies! Look at my record! I’m nothing of the sort!”

  13. So what? If you’re running for legislator, you’d be an idiot to specify spending cuts. I ran for NY assembly (should get results soon), and I sure didn’t specify any cuts. Saying you’re going to cut spending can get you votes, but specifying what you’ll cut could only lose you votes.

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