Republican Tax and Spending Bind

Matt YglesiasMatt Yglesias tries to get to the bottom of the Republican position of taxes and spending. But I’m afraid he’s being a bit too clever. Or something. He correctly points out that Republicans don’t want to raise taxes and also don’t want to cut Medicare and Social Security. But as he says, the question is why. His answer? “Republicans want to want to roll back the welfare state but on some important level don’t actually want to do it.”

There is something to this, of course. Conservatives may be for dismantling the government in the abstract. But actual politicians want to have power and the smaller the government the smaller their power—in a democracy anyway, where you don’t have the power to, “Off with their heads!”[1] There is also a practical side of this. Republicans aren’t stupid. They know that Medicare and Social Security are hugely popular programs, even with their wacky base. So they would be even crazier than they normally seem if they cut those programs.

So that’s all good. But I don’t think this is crux of the matter. Republicans have long had a meme that says that there is a huge amount of waste in government. I remember this from when I was a kid. It is just something that all conservatives know because all other conservatives know it. The problem, of course, is that it really isn’t true. If you cut government spending, it will hurt people. But conservatives “know” that this isn’t the case; cutting spending will just be taking money away from “welfare queens driving Cadillacs.”

And this is a big big big problem for conservative politicians. Sure, they may know that there really isn’t anything to cut—at least not much that their base won’t hate them for cutting. So they are left with ranting about too much spending but without any spending cuts to enact.

But that’s the price you pay for being in a party that has literally no good policy ideas.


[1] In case you missed the reference; although in this version, the Red Queen never says that exact phrase:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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