The Corner

Why Not “Both and”?

As a matter of prudence and preference, I tend not to write about congressional budget fights, but I must say I find myself with a surprising amount of sympathy for the “wets” in the Senate. The argument among GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate is over a “pay-as-you-go” proposal which would require any new tax cuts to be accompanied with corresponding cuts in spending or increases in taxes so as to be “deficit neutral.” Here’s how the LA Times (reg req’d) describes the debate:

A small but powerful faction of Senate Republicans is insisting that the fiscal 2005 budget include rules that require any future tax cuts to be offset so their effect on the deficit would be neutralized; that would mean either cutting spending or raising taxes in other areas. The proposal would strike at the core of President Bush’s domestic agenda if he is reelected by making it much more difficult to cut taxes.

But House Republican leaders have vehemently opposed the pay-as-you-go requirement as an affront to their party’s credo that, when it comes to taxes, the lower the better. They have kept the requirement out of the budget resolution passed by the House — and have openly questioned the loyalty of Republicans who disagree.

“It is a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party: Is it a party about deficit reduction or a party about tax cuts?” said Stanley Collender, a budget expert at Financial Dynamics, a business communications firm in Washington.

Me:I suspect the Times is being more than a bit sensational. And normally I am always for cutting taxes, whenever, wherever and however we can get them. But, as I suspect most conservatives are, I am also in favor of cutting spending wherever, (almost) wherever and however I can. So while I think the logic of “pay-as-you-go” is deeply flawed and I do not embrace it, what’s wrong with cutting a deal that “pays” for taxcuts with more spending cuts? I say “more spending cuts” as if there have been any spending cuts. And there haven’t been. I can think of several cabinet agenices I would heave over the side in order to “pay” for tax cuts. If the only politically feasible way to get tax cuts is to agree to spending cuts, I say “Wahoo!”

Why have a silly battle to define the “heart and soul” of the GOP as either tax cuts or spending cuts? Why not define it as both tax cuts and spending cuts? You need both to be the party of limited govenment, don’t you?

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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