The pending “fiscal cliff” showdown highlights a dramatic shift in the Republican Party over the past 30 years. The prominent placement of a “Debt Clock” at the Republican National Convention aside, starve the beast is now firmly entrenched as the central Republican economic strategy.
Any Republican who puts balanced budgets first, and tax cuts second, is quickly shown the door. As former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett notes in a recent article for Forbes Magazine (not exactly a left-wing rag), the direct product of this strategy has been escalating budget deficits.
Bartlett writes that, “in effect starve the beast became a substitute for spending restraint among Republicans. They talked themselves into believing that cutting taxes was the only thing necessary to control the size of government. Thus, rather than being a means to an end — the end being lower spending — tax cuts became an end in themselves, completely disconnected from any meaningful effort to reduce spending or deficits.”
In 30 years, as a result, the Republican Party has become the greatest obstacle to a balanced budget. Despite revenue that is at a near 50-year low (as a percentage of GDP), congressional Republicans fear that if they approve any revenue increases at all, they will face a tough primary challenge from the right next election.
This state of affairs has led prominent Republicans to reject even debt-reduction proposals where spending cuts outnumber revenue increases 10-to-one. Hopefully things change after the dust from the election settles. Otherwise, if our debt is one of your central concerns, today’s Republican Party is probably not for you, whatever Fox & Friends may say.