All of the above is spending that Republicans over the last 15 years or so either created, or could have cut or slowed—and never did. The relatively small portions of the federal government that the Pledge to America focuses on are almost all so-called domestic discretionary expenses, and despite Republican complaints that these expenses are ballooning, they actually got smaller, as a portion of overall spending, under Bush. Of course, that's not because they've shrunk—it's because of the huge rise in spending that Republicans approved for the military!
Hence, when you look through the GOP proposals to cut spending, they are uniformly, laughably puny. A typical idea is to permit the government to hire only one new worker for every two who leave. Leaving aside the arbitrariness of the idea, its own proponents claim that it will save a whopping $35 billion—over 10 years. They are whacking weeds at the edge of a large field where they let sacred cows get fatter.
When Republicans denounce "government spending," then, they're talking only about government spending that they don't like: the TARP (a Republican creation), health care reform, stimulus spending, the auto industry bailout. But the plain fiscal fact is that the national Republican Party has been addicted to its own forms of government spending at least since the Nixon administration. The very notion of taking a "pledge" evokes their addiction—This time it's different, we swear!
Sure, the pledge tactic could have considerable short-term political traction, especially as the economy continues its anemic growth. The Republican Party has long shown it can win elections by hollering about taxing and spending. But winning elections won't solve the longer-term problem that the GOP will face from the Tea Party's embrace—which is that, unlike congressional Republicans, these people actually believe the rhetoric.
Slate V: GOP Pledge to America
TODAY IN SLATE
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