Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why the GOP Won the Debt Debate

As argued yesterday, the debt deal compromise is not perfect, but it is nevertheless a fair deal.  William McGurn, at the Wall Street Journal, outlines why the deal is a large win for the Republicans.
It's that the deal has Democrats, including the president, essentially signing on to the Republican framework for defining the Beltway's budget problem: spending that is too high rather than taxes that are too low.... And come the 2012 elections this deal will help force the debate that all conservatives have wanted all along—about the size, scope, and proper mission of our federal government.... That puts 2012 on terms much friendlier to the argument that Republicans need to make to the American people. It runs like this: If you are want a government in Washington that spends less, that taxes less, and encourages our private sector to grow, you need a Republican in the White House.
The win lies not so much in the details of the compromise - there is certainly a mix of good and bad in this regard - but in the fact that the right has changed the terms of the debate.  America has a long history of relying on a leftist framework to government and budgetary issues; namely, big government spending is good and taxes must be increased to fill any budgetary gap.  Now, serious government retrenchment is on the table.  The right is still a long distance away from actually crafting a government in the proper, limited fashion supported by conservatives, but by beginning to alter the frames of discussion we are one large step closer to achieving that.


  1. No tax hike on rich people + only spending decreases (including to core Democratic welfare programs) = Republican win

    Now the Democrats can't even legitimately campaign on Republicans' alleged desire to destroy old people's livelihood (Medicare + Social Security).

    You can also see the Repubs won in that even hardline folks like Norquist are quite happy with the deal, whereas unabashed Liberals like Reich and Krugman are appalled.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Certainly the lack of tax hikes is a big win for the right. I read a commentary - I forget where - that said essentially 'Look to the people who are complaining loudest - they are the ones who lost' and then referenced Pelosi and House Democrats. I mean when you have comments like Emanuel Cleaver's "Satan sandwich" coming from the left and little similar colorful vitriol from the right, it seems clear to me.

    I do think the left is so appalled because it is such a fundamental shift from 'business as usual' that it is just shocking that a mentality and system that has governed this country for some eight decades is beginning to show cracks.

  3. I don't think they're appalled at "cracks in the system" so much as the fact they have a Democratic president doing this.

    From a Liberal point of view, why should social programs to help the unemployed, the poor and the elderly be cut instead of taxes on the inordinately rich raised (even as the latter's proportion of national income has been increasing constantly)? Or indeed as certain corporations use loopholes to avoid paying taxes even as greater numbers of jobs are outsourced overseas?

    For those who consider themselves the heirs of Roosevelt and Johnson it could be a day of revulsion for "their" president who reveals himself to either be unfathomably weak or not committed to the Democratic Party's greatest achievements.

  4. Fair enough. I've certainly seen and heard much distaste from the left. It is coming down to a battle of priorities - do people want to spend more for these programs or not? I think historically the question of having these programs has been disjoint from the question of paying for these programs, which is precisely why they have existed funded by deficits. But I think those two questions are fortunately moving together in people's minds (it should never have been disjointed.) Unfortunately for the left and their ideology it doesn't seem like America is falling on their side, as an empirical statement, and is choosing not to pay for these programs.

    In my opinion that's mostly a good thing, but that's a separate ideological argument.

  5. I don't know if "America" wants the abolition of Social Security and Medicare. I also don't know that these programs could not be funded, even without deficits, if there were tax hikes and an end to military adventurism.

  6. We'll we see what America wants. I don't think they want abolition either, but I'm not sure if it ranks above paying less taxes in priority.

    As to the fiscal side of these programs, I think they are very troublesome, if not unworkable, economically, including the negative economic effects (inefficiencies, lock-in problems, crowding, etc.) that occur as a result.

    As to taxes, I don't get it. Where does the government get the right to take from people? I understand the need for certain taxes, but I don't understand this mentality that tries to justify the state controlling access to an individual's private income. Who is anyone to decide what is "too much" - it is arbitrary and thus patently unjust. Even if one can prove that these programs are "better" or "correct" (which is an impossible feat), it doesn't justify taking from someone who might not agree. If certain rich (Buffet and Matt Damon come to mind) feel they have too much, they are free to donate to whatever cause they want, including the federal government, but forcing others seems to me the greatest tyranny.


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