The Conservative Third Way

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 14 2011 9:02 AM

The Conservative Third Way

That's what Steve Benen identifies in a post keying off my questions to Tim Pawlenty, about taxes.

We’ve come to think of the political divide, at least when it comes to the larger fight over expenditures and revenue, as a fight between the Republican and Democratic visions. Pawlenty and others are going to argue that both parties have adopted a liberal economic philosophy, which the GOP now intends to break.

Looking back at the Bush/Cheney era, most of which was dominated by Republican majorities in Congress, it didn’t occur to us to think, "Wow, it’s remarkable how the GOP has embraced economic liberalism!" But that’s what Pawlenty and other Republicans are going to ask voters to believe — the GOP of the Bush era spent too much, taxed too much, and raised the deficit too much.

Come to think of it, they’re likely to say the same thing about the Reagan era, too, since government grew in the ’80s; the deficit tripled; and tax rates were even higher then than now.

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I'd just add that this is not new. It's what Republicans ran on in the 2007-2008 primaries. George W. Bush was already unpopular by then, but really the only acceptable jab at his economic policy was a jab from the right -- something John McCain used to win over the base. In McCain's telling, the failure to control earmarks and spending was the Bush/Hastert GOP's big failure, politically as well as on policy.

Conservatives have an accepted history of the last 30 years. It is: Reagan cut taxes and grew the economy. Republicans cut spending in the 90s and grew the economy. Bush Republicans increased spending and voters rejected them. And all of this proves that Keynesianism doesn't work.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.