Senator Rand Paul made waves earlier this year when he introduced a package of spending cuts that would have removed $500 billion from the current budget. Now, and somewhat disappointingly, he’s revamped the plan and reduced the amount of cuts by several hundred billion dollars:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has ratcheted down his proposal to cut $500 billion from the federal budget for fiscal year 2011.
Paul on Tuesday introduced an amendment on the Senate floor to cut $200 billion over the next six-and-a-half months.
Paul said a House-passed proposal to cut $61 billion from the budget “doesn’t touch the problem.”
“Sixty one billion dollars in cuts sounds like a lot of money. But you know what? We’re increasing spending by $700 billion. And now we’re going to nibble away at $61 billion,” he said on the Senate floor.
Paul is right, of course, but it’s also the case that $200 billion is less than the $500 billion that he proposed only a month ago. Paul says that he is doing this in an effort to see if he can get more support for a reduced package of spending cuts, but in all honesty this plan has no more chance and of passing the Senate than his original plan did so it seems like a wasted effort in that regard. Additionally, while it is admittedly all purely symbolic, it is nonetheless a retreat in a battle against Federal spending that the GOP is barely fighting at this point. Paul is one of the few Members of Congress fighting the good fight, so it’s unfortunate that he would surrender like this.
That said, there is plenty of good in the new, revised, plan:
Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and David Brooks met at the American Enterprise Institute to debate the topic, “How Much Government is Good Government?” Ryan took up the limited government aspect of the debate, while Brooks - not surprisingly - took up the case for an active government.
Ryan, the wonky administrator, emphasized the need for immediate legislative solutions in order to avoid a fiscal meltdown. “The numbers are vicious,” he said, underlining his contention that responsible governance should focus on responding to the grim math of the federal debt. Brooks, the cerebral cultural critic, responded that the key disagreement was not about particular policies, but about the narrative framework behind them, and he singled out Ryan’s “prose” outlining America’s stark fiscal choices as a problem.
It’s hardly in dispute that narrative matters in politics. The question is what story to spin. And the problem with the tale Brooks wants to tell—and sell—is that it’s the same one that’s led to the unsustainable fiscal situation he claims to want to fix.
For Brooks, the narrative that matters is that government, properly directed, can be a force for good, one that strengthens community bonds, counteracts social ills, and encourage the institutions of family and hard work. On several occasions, Brooks repeated his belief that the government’s job is to help citizens build “character.”
With about three weeks before the mid-term elections, Republicans look poised to make significant gains in both the U.S. House and Senate. Most of the major polls are now projecting that the House will return to Republican control; the only question being, by what margin? There is even the remote possibility that Republicans can retake control of the Senate, a scenario that seemed laughable only three months ago. Governors’ races across the country are looking very favorable for the GOP as well, as are the state legislatures. In short, it seems that the predictions of the death of conservatism, and the Carvillian prophecy of forty years of Democrat rule, may have been a bit premature. In fact, it appears that not only will Democrats fall short of the forty year mark; they will fall short of the forty month mark.
For Republicans and conservatives across the nation, certainly this is an encouraging time. Less than two years ago it looked as if we would be wandering for years in the political Sahara, but now America is behind us once again. Or are they?
With all of the rosy news flowing in for Republicans, it would be easy to believe their own hype. However, I would submit that if Republicans allow themselves to buy into this mantra, then they are setting themselves up for failure just as the Democrats have done. In the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republicans lost 55 House seats and saw the Democrats take a 61-39 lead in the Senate (with self-proclaimed Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont caucusing with the Democrats). A number of factors led to these losses, but in large part it came down to a handful of issues; weariness of George W. Bush and eight years of war, an unending stream of revelations of corruption among elected Republicans, and out of control spending.
In just one week the Democrats have closed a ten point gap on a generic ballot according to a Gallup Poll released yesterday:
The latest Gallup update on 2010 voting preferences marks the first time in over a month at which Republicans have not held an advantage among registered voters on Gallup’s weekly generic ballot update. This shift, coupled with the fact that Democrats led on the measure earlier in the summer, shows that voter sentiments are not immune to change. Hoping to prove this, Democrats from the president on down are gearing up to maximize their chances of keeping party control of the House, just as voter attention to the campaign is increasing after the Labor Day weekend.
While the Republicans are seemingly distracted by rabbit holes, as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour called it, they have not seized the opportunity to clearly set an agenda to deal with the number one issue facing the American Voter this year; jobs, jobs, jobs.
Hoping to win by default just isn’t going to cut it. And playing on biases and cultural differences to score cheap political points will only work for so long. It is time for the Republicans to clearly articulate a plan for economic recovery.
Perhaps this poll can serve as the wakeup call the Republicans so desperately need. If they choose to stay on the path they are on, their wins will not be as great as they could be.
The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder points out that the Republicans may be ignoring a very important constituency:
Economic libertarianism is the message du jour, and Pawlenty’s budget-cutting in Minnesota may get some attention. But really, neither he nor the other sober wing candidates have figured out exactly what the non-Palin wing of the party wants. There’s no way to court social conservatives with Palin or Mike Huckabee in the race. So who’s left to help you win primaries and caucuses?
To the Republican Party, they are — they could be — what the anti-war left was to Democrats in 2003: the out-of-the-establishment power center that can drive the narrative of the race. How do you get the attention of libertarians without losing conservatives? You could shift positions on the war in Afghanistan, or try to fashion a more realist foreign policy. That seems to be a non-starter; the consultants for these candidates are fairly covnentional and risk-averse. Endorse medical marijuana? Legalize gambling? Something else?
The problem for the GOP is that they’ve never quite figured out what that “something else” is, and they’ve spent so much time supporting candidates, and backing policies, that are anathema to libertarians that it’s hard to beleive them when they say they’ve changed this time.
In my time, I’ve lived through two occasions when the GOP claimed to be the party of small government.
Michael Gerson, who served as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, is worried about the rise of libertarianism in the Republican Party:
The Republican wave carries along a group that strikes a faux revolutionary pose. “Our Founding Fathers,” says Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, “they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”
Angle has managed to embrace the one Founding Father with a disturbing tolerance for the political violence of the French Revolution. “Rather than it should have failed,” enthused Jefferson, “I would have seen half the earth desolated.” Hardly a conservative model.
But mainstream conservatives have been strangely disoriented by Tea Party excess, unable to distinguish the injudicious from the outrageous. Some rose to Angle’s defense or attacked her critics. Just to be clear: A Republican Senate candidate has identified the United States Congress with tyranny and contemplated the recourse to political violence. This is disqualifying for public office. It lacks, of course, the seriousness of genuine sedition. It is the conservative equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt — a fashion, a gesture, a toying with ideas the wearer only dimly comprehends. The rhetoric of “Second Amendment remedies” is a light-weight Lexington, a cut-rate Concord. It is so far from the moral weightiness of the Founders that it mocks their memory.
That’s certainly the conclusion that I’m left with after reading this:
If Sarah Palin gets her way, she’ll soon be getting some time with Britain’s first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Though it’s unclear what the two might discuss, Palin’s camp would certainly benefit from a photo op with one of the conservative movement’s most famous figures. “Palin’s big hero is Ronald Reagan,” a source told British news outlet the Daily Mail. “In U.S. Republican folklore Thatcher and Reagan brought down the Soviet Union between them. That’s why Maggie is so important.”
A little bit of hilarity follows:
Palin has not hinted at any plans to visit the current prime minister, David Cameron, prompting one person involved in setting up the talks to comment, “Their main interest is getting a picture of her with Lady Thatcher. I’m not sure they know who David Cameron is.” No date for the meeting has been set.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Palin or those in her camp don’t know who Cameron is.
A few days ago the House Republicans opened a web site called America Speaking Out designed to be yet another one of those opportunities to plow the wisdom of the vast unwashed.
“End Child Labor Laws,” suggests one helpful participant. “We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories.”
“How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way,” recommends another. “That fake so called birth certificate is useless.”
“A ‘teacher’ told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!” a third complains. “And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story.”
“Build a castle-style wall along the border, there is plenty of stone laying around about there.” That was in the “national security” section of the new site.
“Legalize Marijuana, cause, like, alcohol is legal. Man. Also.” That was in the “traditional values” section.
“I say, repeal all the amendments to the Constitution.” (“American prosperity” section.)
“Don’t let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide… . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet ‘I’ on their chests — for ‘illegal’!!!” (Filed under “job creation.”)
A few more that I noticed:
Remember Ron Paul’s hubbub over overtly racist rhetoric in some of his newsletters? Well, it looks like his son is now in similarly hot water:
It seems that after failing to answer a yes or no question about whether the Woolworth lunch counter should have stayed segregated in the 1960s, Rand Paul has found his words. The Republican Senate nominee in Kentucky issued a long statement Thursday stressing that he would not back any repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation,” Paul said. Still, he tiptoed around his main source of disagreement with the bill, which he says he believes does more than the federal government should be allowed. “This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs,” he said in the statement.
This all reminds me substantially of the firestorm that hit Mel Gibson. Gibson got caught in a firestorm of anti-Semitism bizarrely hurled at a police office just doing his job, soon amending himself with trips on daytime news shows with defenses that he was upset about what Israel was doing in the Middle East. His father, meanwhile, had been even more crude:
The final poll of the GOP Senate primary race from Kentucky television station WHAS shows Rand Paul coasting to what looks like an overwhelming victory over Trey Greyson:
It’s the Senate race the entire nation is watching — as Trey Grayson — the choice of some of the biggest names in the Republican party is trying to overcome a tidal wave of tea - as Rand Paul is coasting on that tea party wave.
The Rand Paul phenomenon in Kentucky shows no signs of ebbing tonight - as the Bowling Green opthamologist’s double digit lead continues over Secretary of State Trey Grayson. He says his message is behind his 16 point lead.
“I come from the Tea Party movement,” Paul said Wednesday, “and the tea party movement really feels like government is out of control, that we’re being consumed by this debt.”
As Trey Grayson campaigned in Louisville this morning, some may suggest the dark clouds that hung over him were a metaphor for the poll numbers..
“We’re seeing a very close race,” Grayson insisted, “A jump ball if you will and we’re going to finish strong and one of the things you’re not going to see us do is quit.
That’s usually what you hear from guys who are about to lose, of course.
It’s not over yet, of course, but things are looking very good in the Bluegrass State.