Not only is the GOP’s deficit-reduction-vs.-tax-cuts fissure not new, it almost always has been settled in favor of the tax reduction wing of the party.
So, though it’s hard not to agree with Larry Haas’s argument that the GOP will have trouble over the next two years dealing with what he implies are newly created fissures between Republicans for whom federal tax cuts are their reason for living and those who say that reducing the deficit must be the only goal, it’s also hard to see how the deficit reducers will be able to overcome the very deep-seated, anti-tax feelings this time around.
The most notable exception to the tax reducers usually winning – George H.W. Bush’s agreement with Democrats to raise revenues after he so gloriously said at the 1988 Republican convention that voters should read his lips because there would be no tax increase – is still considered an act of Benedict Arnold-like betrayal by GOP anti-tax conservatives even though analysts generally agree it contributed significantly to the four consecutive budget surpluses that occurred from 1998 to 2001. To this day many Republicans refuse to speak the name of the person who was Bush’s OMB director at the time because he negotiated the deal.
The tea party-types have shown themselves to be relatively rabid on the subject of deficit reduction, but very little has happened to make “the deficit” into anything more than what it has always been for the Republican Party -- a subterfuge for some other issue. For it to be different this time you have to assume that those in the tea party will abandon the GOP if they only get half a loaf when it comes to reducing the deficit. That may have been easy to do when they were fighting to get a majority; it will far more difficult when the alternative is handing control back to Democrats they see as the fiscal version of the devil incarnate.
Contrary to what Larry wants us to believe, it’s far more likely the deficit reducers will fade as a significant force in the Republican Party as they find ways to redefine success. Indeed, we’ve already seen tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., say that tax cuts shouldn’t be counted as an increase in the deficit because that only happens when spending rises. That’s using silly putty to fill the cracks Haas says will make life difficult for the GOP next year. It’s also a sign that the deficit isn’t going down as far or as fast as some think should happen.
Stan Collender is the author of the Capital Gains and Games blog and is a partner with Qorvis Communications LLC.
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