Is it politics or ideology?, by Jeff Frankel: President Obama said yesterday ...Is politics motivating the Republicans, or ideology? ... Most of what the Grand Old Party has done in the last two years can much better be explained by politics than ideology. For example, only politics can explain a systematic strategy of opposing whatever the White House favors, even when this requires changing one’s vote... Only politics can explain the long-time refusal of so-called fiscal conservatives to name the specific spending programs they want to cut.
On Tuesday Representative Paul Ryan unveiled a new long-term budget plan that apparently comes closer to naming the specific programs he wants to cut. Medicaid in particular..., though he is still trying to avoid alienating the elderly... Perhaps we are getting closer to the point where we can actually have a debate over ideology, over competing policy priorities. This would be an improvement over the nonsense that has passed for public debate in recent years.
If so, let us be clear that the ideology of the Tea Party and Paul Ryan is not “fiscal conservatism.” Fiscal conservatism is supposed to mean the reduction of budget deficits, paying for what you spend, matching tax revenue to expenditure. Someone who was sincere about eliminating the budget deficits that we have inherited would propose a long-term plan that included roles for raising tax revenue and cutting defense spending, in addition to slowing the growth of entitlements and domestic spending. But the Ryan plan in fact cuts taxes and loses revenue almost equal to its spending cuts. In other words, it mostly uses the cuts in federal medical care spending to pay for more tax cuts.
This continues the pattern. The supposed fiscal conservatives ... insistence on renewing the Bush tax cuts (for the rich, as usual) has added hundreds of billions of dollars to the current deficits, outweighing all the specific spending cuts that they have proposed, combined. ... These choices follow the tradition of those “fiscal conservatives” Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush whose fiscal policies created the majority of the national debt we have to live with today.
Even though Obama’s opponents in Congress cannot sustain the claim of being fiscal conservatives, it is possible that some will now genuinely lay claim to the other two-word ideological phrase: “small government.” Do they want to, finally, come out and say explicitly that their goal is to cut domestic spending (especially entitlements) in order to cut taxes, putting the priority on shrinking government rather than eliminating the budget deficit? ... I am not sure if they are. ...