Piecemeal Spending Bills Won't Save the GOP

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 2 2013 4:19 PM

Piecemeal Spending Bills Won't Save the GOP

Furloughed federal workers chant and shout in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Republicans—shying away from the consequences of the government shutdown they provoked—have started rallying around the idea of addressing specific problems with a government shutdown by passing mini-appropriations to rescue particular agencies. Helping out veterans and reopening national parks, in particular, seem to be on the agenda.


Democrats, meanwhile, are resisting this approach for a mix of a few reasons. One is that this is basically a silly way to run the government. The other is that Democrats think they're winning the political argument right now and don't want to change course. And the third is that they fear these small-batch appropriations might be a viable strategy for the GOP: reopen the parts of the government Republicans don't mind, while letting vital programs like WIC or agencies the GOP hates like the EPA wither on the vine.


This last is, I think, a mistake.

The cliché about public opinion and government spending is that the American people are "ideologically conservative and operationally liberal." That means Americans absolutely agree that government spending is much too high, they just don't happen to favor spending cuts on any particular program. This Pew survey from February was typical. Even the dread foreign aid doesn't quite get majority support for cuts. And support for increasing spending exceeds support for cutting spending in virtually every category. That includes food inspections, environmental protections, aid to the American poor, and basically every other key category.

Veterans' benefits happen to be the single most broadly popular category of spending, so it's no surprise that would come first on a piecemeal list. But going line by line through the government puts Republicans on precisely their weakest ground—specifying where, exactly, they want to cut in a country where the public doesn't want to cut anything in particular.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 4:08 PM More Than Scottish Pride Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.