Before You Hate Republicans - Note: Shrinking Government Is Not On Neither Parties' Agenda
An insightful article regarding the polarization of this country and the politics that play into and out from two visions. This editorial makes the point but it is worth repeating: the discussions on decreasing the budget or government are all about decreasing the amount of expected future growth.
The super committee's failure is rooted in a clash of visions.
WSJ Editorial, November 22, 2011
So it's all Grover Norquist's fault. Democrats and the media are singing in unison that the reason Congress's antideficit super committee has failed is because of the conservative activist's magical antitax spell over Republicans.
Not to enhance this Beltway fable, but thank you, Mr. Norquist. By reminding Republicans of their antitax promises, he has helped to expose the real reason for the super committee's failure: the two parties disagree profoundly on a vision of government.
Democrats don't believe they need to do more than tinker around the edges of the entitlement state while raising taxes on the rich. Republicans think the growth of government is unsustainable and can't be financed no matter how much taxes are raised.
Sounds like we need an election.
Of course it would have been preferable if the two sides had come together now to cut spending, reform the tax code and remake Medicare. Preferable, but implausible. That would have required President Obama to have shown more respect for the will of the voters when they revoked his credit card by giving Republicans control of the House in 2010. Or for the President to have honored the findings of his own Bowles-Simpson deficit commission by using it as a basis for negotiation. Instead, he ignored them.
The abiding reality of American politics is that substantial change in Washington is impossible without Presidential leadership. And Mr. Obama does not want to lead on reforming entitlements or reducing the deficit. He is making clear he is running for re-election on a platform of consolidating the expansion of government of his first two years and raising taxes to finance it.
Thus it's no surprise that he did more than anyone to poison the well of the super committee with his October remarks promising a veto unless the deal included $1 trillion in tax increases. Mr. Obama knew that Republicans couldn't agree to this a year after winning election on a promise not to raise taxes. But $1 trillion became the marker that Democrats on the super committee insisted was the price of admission for all but token spending cuts. This is after Mr. Obama also insisted that ObamaCare and its tax increases (that start in 2013) couldn't be touched.
As for the alleged tyranny of Grover, Republicans on the committee explicitly risked his wrath by putting tax revenue increases on the table. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey offered $500 billion in revenues—$300 billion in the statically scored tax increases that Democrats demanded—by cutting deductions mainly for the wealthy. Democrats rejected the offer because it wasn't $1 trillion and because in return Mr. Toomey also wanted to lock in lower tax rates. Never mind that nearly all economists agree that lower rates and a more efficient tax code would increase economic growth and lead to more revenues over time.
The entitlement reforms being considered were hardly worth the effort in any case. As everyone knows and the nearby chart shows, federal health-care spending is the real driver of future deficits. On its current trajectory, Medicare is expected to grow to 6.7% of GDP in 20 years from 3.7% today. But the reforms that Democrats would contemplate would have cut that merely to 6.2%.
The Paul Ryan-Alice Rivlin premium-support reform for Medicare—the only reform that won't require harsh government price controls or care restrictions—was deemed unacceptable. Democrats say they favor spending cuts, but they have yet to put a serious cut on the table, or even to pass a Senate budget in three years.In the end Republicans had to choose between a $1 trillion tax hike that would hurt a sputtering economy while splintering the GOP less than a year before a huge election, or let an automatic spending cut of $1.2 trillion over 10 years begin in 2013. The sequester is the better option.
Defense would be hurt disproportionately, as Mr. Obama's Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has been saying. But in the interim perhaps House Republicans can work with Senate Democrats and Mr. Panetta to restore some of that defense spending. Mr. Obama said late yesterday he'd veto any such bill, but Republicans should still press the issue as part of the election campaign. As for the 7.8% across-the-board sequester in domestic programs, this may be the only way to begin cutting a government that has grown by $600 billion in three years.
Much of the world, and especially the press corps, will look at this failure and wail about the "dysfunction" in Washington. And it is pathetic that Congress couldn't agree to cut even a single dime from the projected $45 trillion in spending over 10 years. But this is the product of divided government and a clash of political visions. Unlike Bill Clinton in 1996, President Obama is unbowed by his party's defeat in 2010 and is determined to reclaim his mandate to expand government next year.
Democrats are confident they can blame Republicans for the failure and ride their president's class war campaign to victory. Republicans have to counter with a message of economic growth and sensible reforms of our government institutions so the U.S. doesn't end up like Europe.
This is for voters to decide. Let's have it out.