The Corner

Re: Budget Rules

Ramesh – I agree with you (and the various readers who’ve made similar points). I even agree with much of what Kevin Drum says, even though most of his readers apparently think I’m the dumber than a bag of rocks. See the comments section). I guess the point of my post was essentially that pro-tax-cutting conservatives shouldn’t back off the ambition to cut spending too. And in politics the only way to do something is start out by saying you want to do it.

Rather than your hypothetical $700 billion in tax cuts and spending cuts, I would much rather $350 in tax cuts and $350 in spending cuts (Preferably not haircut trims across the board but honest-to-goodness ending of programs and agencies). In fact, I’d rather $50 billion in tax cuts and $650 billion in spending cuts.

In other words, I think spending cuts are not only more important than tax cuts (now that the economy is going good) but because spending cuts are harder to get and so we should get them whenever we can, even at the expense of tax cuts.

I certainly don’t believe the Republican Senators championing the pay-as-you-go proposal sincerely want cuts in either taxes or spending. But the rhetorical divide between the two sides is infuriating since limited government requires both. Newt Gingrich may have had his flaws, but I would at least prefer a Republican leadership that made denouncing big government a rhetorical priority. The problem with a Republican Party defined by compassionate conservatism (particularly during an election year) is that it buys into the assumptions of liberals about what defines “compassion” — and liberals define (political) compassion by the growth of government programs, entitlements etc.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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