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Monday, August 07, 2006

Republicans Need to Rediscover Their Inner Selves?

Kevin Hassett has a plan for Republicans:

Republicans' Best Hope? Stop Imitating Democrats, by: Kevin Hassett, Bloomberg: The political mood in Washington changed dramatically last week.

Republicans moped around town like has-beens, mumbling that defeat in November is looking more and more likely. Democrats, buoyed by the latest poll numbers, acted like victory is already in the bag. ... The polls are partly to blame for the mood swings. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found widespread dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush, with 60 percent of Americans disapproving of his handling of Iraq and 59 percent saying they dislike how he is managing the economy.

The race-by-race analysis passed around by insiders seems to be breaking against the Republicans as well, with the president's lack of popularity dragging down his allies in many of the key swing districts. ...

The Republicans may be behind, yet the race is far from over. Democrats have shown themselves more than able to blow a lead in the past. ... The first realization Republicans need to make is that America is equally divided, and they can put themselves back in the middle of the race if they can activate their conservative base. If they are losing now, it is because their base is dispirited.

Why might core Republican voters be dispirited? The answer is obvious. Republicans promised voters a lean and efficient government, and they delivered the opposite. ... This Republican government has been among the most liberal with taxpayers' dollars of any in history.

Part of the story is the war on terror, but there is much more to it. Republicans have governed as if they could maintain a permanent majority by merely giving voters all the big-spending liberal programs that Democrats have always promised, like prescription drugs. They have out-liberaled the liberals.

Republicans took the strategy to new heights last week, when they made a sharp increase in the minimum wage a centerpiece of legislation that also would have reduced the death tax. The minimum wage has been the bane of Republicans for as long as I can remember, because it strikes them at their ideological core.

Republicans used to understand that the government should let free markets work and intervene as little as possible. Now, their core election strategy is to abandon principle and be as socialist as possible.

The predictable result: Democratic voters have given them no credit for the conversion, probably because they are so upset about Iraq, and Republicans have decided to stay home, since no party seems to speak to them anymore.

Republicans should return to their roots. They should acknowledge that government has grown too much, and promise to do something about it if re-elected. They can even blame the ''compassionate conservative'' president in the process. In other words, take a page out of the Democrats' book, and run against Bush.

There is an easy target: the budget deficit. Profligate spending has pushed the deficit to historic heights, and spending restraint can easily bring it back. Republicans should promise voters they will balance the budget by fiscal year 2009, which we would talk about in the 2008 election year, if given the chance to remain the majority party.

That might sound like a tall order, but it isn't. Revenue has been picking up, and the budget would be balanced by fiscal 2009 if Republicans could freeze spending at its current level and cut an additional $26 billion...

Imagine how the conversation would change if Republicans took that step. Democrats would complain about the terrible damage that would ensue if government would shrink slightly, reminding voters that they are ideologically the traditional party of big government. And Republicans could have a field day picking out egregious things to cut. ...

I want to see that list -- so far no one has produced a credible list of cuts to balance the budget and it's not from lack of effort.

They can promise to balance the budget, but if the expected slowdown on the horizon should materialize undermining the overly optimistic growth scenario behind the claims about how easy it will be to balance the budget, is this a credible commitment? Will Republicans be willing to commit to spending cuts even during a recession making the recession even worse? I'm doubtful.

The time to balance the budget is during the good times - that's when you repay the money you've borrowed. Going further into debt when times are good, as this congress and president have done, sets the economy up for a harder fall when things go bad. If the economy does turn downward, the Republicans will be lucky if the deficit doesn't get worse.

    Posted by on Monday, August 7, 2006 at 10:47 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Policy, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (13)

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