You hear a lot these days about the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” types who would vote for the Republican Party if only it got its act together. MSNBC-friendly Republicans like Colin Powell and Joe Scarborough have each done their part to help sustain this narrative at times. To be sure, there are a number of social positions the GOP generally represents that are rightfully anathema to this crowd, and I understand that. What’s rather interesting, however, is the degree to which the Trojan Horse of “right-wing extremism” has come to extend to the very fiscal responsibility that would-be conservatives profess to want.
Republicans don’t all agree on the optimal way forward on fiscal issues any more than do the Democrats. But whatever the media hype to the contrary, we should all be able to agree that, say, continually raising the debt ceiling without substantial budgetary reform is less than ideal. To this effect, you GOP-leery fiscal conservatives, Jonah Goldberg has written you a letter:
“So, Bob, as a “fiscal conservative,” what was so outrageous about trying to cut pork — Fisheries in Alaska! Massive subsidies for Amtrak! — from the Sandy disaster-relief bill? What was so nuts about looking for offsets to pay for it?”
Even if you think the House mishandled the Sandy bill, their objections seem not unreasonable, and they did offer another, less pork-laden bill. But as that fight is over, let’s move on to the “moderates”:
“Well, let’s talk about Eisenhower, your kind of Republican. Did you know that in his famous farewell address he warned about the debt? “We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage,” he said. “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”
Bob, we are that insolvent phantom, you feckless, gormless clod. The year Eisenhower delivered that speech, U.S. debt was roughly half our GDP. But that was when we were still paying off WWII (not to mention things like the Marshall Plan), and the defense budget constituted more than half the U.S. budget (today it’s a fifth and falling). Now, the debt is bigger than our GDP. Gross Domestic Product is barely $15 trillion. The national debt is over $16 trillion and climbing — fast. The country isn’t going broke, Bob, it is broke.
When George W. Bush added nearly $5 trillion in national debt in two terms you were scandalized. When Obama added more than that in one term, you yawned. When, in 2006, then-senator Obama condemned Bush’s failure of leadership and vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling, you thought him a statesman. Obama, who wants to borrow trillions more, now admits that was purely a “political vote.”
Yet when Republicans actually have the courage of Obama’s own convictions, you condemn them.”
This, of course, brings us to the crux of our spending problem of which liberals loathe to speak—entitlements:
“Anyone who calls himself a fiscal conservative understands we have a spending problem. Do the math. A two-earner couple who retired in 2011 after making $89,000 per year will have paid about $114,000 into Medicare over their lifetimes but will receive $355,000. When will it dawn on you that Obama doesn’t think we have a spending problem? I ask because when he said “we don’t have a spending problem,” it seemed to have no effect on you.
And yet you still think Paul Ryan’s budget was “extreme.” Do you know when it balanced the budget? 2040. What’s a non-extreme date to balance the budget, Bob? 2113?”
Until and unless Democrats get serious about transformative spending cuts, my fiscally conservative friend, the GOP is the only game in town for deficit reduction. I’m not saying the Party is perfect by any means, but a few rotten apples don’t change the fact that we, as a movement, are committed to the fiscal reforms that will move our country toward the right track. And every step of the way, the Left fights us tooth and nail. Remember that the next time somebody howls about “extremists.”