Let’s Definitely Talk About Spending

Karl at Hot Air has another response to me. Assuming my Internet connection on this boat holds long enough for me to get to the end of this post, let me offer a few points of (what I hope will be) clarification:

1) I do think that a more attractive domestic agenda–or any domestic agenda at all–could have reduced Republican losses in 2006 and 2008, even if it could not have prevented major losses from happening. I probably should have been clearer on this point in my last response to him.

2) As far as I can tell, at no point in either of his comments does Karl dispute my main point: that the prevailing Republican view of what happened in 2006 and 2008 is incorrect. Seems like a fairly large, if implicit, concession.

3) Karl suggests that I think it is politically unwise to promise to eliminate agencies or departments of the government. Never said it, don’t believe it. It depends on which government agency is being targeted. The platform promise to end the Department of Education did seem to hurt in 1996. Look at the exit-poll contrast on education questions between 1996 and 2000 (when Bush made a big show of striking that bit of the platform).

4) I think that major entitlement reform is much more likely in the next 5-15 years than the abolition of the EPA, and therefore much more worth bringing up in a presidential campaign. Does Karl really disagree?

5) Karl thinks my general advice is that Republicans should quiet down about federal spending and be more cautious about cutting it. Not really. I was about as vociferous an advocate as any journalist of the Bush Social Security reform in 2005, which would have amounted to a cut worth about $13 trillion in net present value at the time. The op-ed he quotes from concerned a purely tactical question of how best to go about seeking entitlement cuts. But I do think that spending cuts have to be part of a larger conservative domestic policy agenda, and right now that agenda is underdeveloped.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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