The evidence is in: The Republican Party has completely failed to reduce federal spending. It hasn't even controlled growth. It has done the opposite. It has sent spending through the roof.
Further, its basic electoral strategy, the seemingly common-sense one of "starving government" by cutting taxes, though popular at the voting booth, has done nothing . . . this bares repeating . . . nothing to reduce the growth of government.
The evidence suggests just the opposite. By reducing taxes, Republicans have given politicians (now most of them Republican politicians) more incentive to spend.
It's an odd thesis. It goes against the grain of household economics. We like to say, "you can't spend what you don't have." Ronald Reagan put it best: "If you've got a kid that's extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker."
Trouble is, as liberal columnist Jonathan Chait put it, "The child has a credit card."
The conclusion seems obvious: The GOP has not only failed on its "less government" and "more freedom" agenda, it has put the conservative movement at an impasse.
It has even made Democrats and liberals look wise. Quite a feat.
Real Common Sense
This is the thesis that Jonathan Rauch has recently pushed in The Atlantic and on cable TV. Rauch is a smart cookie. His 1995 book Demosclerosis put him at the front ranks of journalists covering the Bloated Government Beat.
And parts of his thesis should seem awfully familiar to my readers. I've been harping on the failure of the GOP to control government spending for, well, it seems forever.
Further, Rauch mines some of the same sage aphorisms that I have. He puts William Niskanen, the public choice economist who heads the Cato Institute, very near the front of his story. It's on Niskanen's authority that Rauch rests much of his case.
Niskanen has explained, repeatedly, why, if you want to cut government, there's no substitute. You've just got to cut government. Cutting taxes means, as he puts it, making the perceived cost of government go down. So, like anyone faced with decreasing costs, citizens want more. Not the same. Certainly not less.
So we get more. More government. All because cutting taxes was put ahead of what's most important: controlling spending.
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