As The Wall Street Journal reports, total Federal spending will run to $3.65 trillion in 2012, up from $3.6 trillion for the just concluded 2011. So, what happened to the spending cuts the Republicans promised in the run up to the 2010 elections? A funny thing happened on the way to the Washington pig trough.
The Democrats, in the summer debt ceiling “negotiations,” blocked any savings more extensive than $7 billion before they would allow any sort of deal on the debt ceiling to be concluded. Only 28 programs, out of the thousands Washington uses for vote buying, got cut—and these involved nothing but walking around money: a $1.2 million program for “civic education” was eliminated, for instance. With the Solyndra scandal pushing hard, DoE’s loan guarantee program for “green” startups got axed, though.
What else? Amtrak, the Legal Services Corporation, National Public Radio, the United Nations population program, mass transit grants, funding for the UN’s Climate Panel all were retained. Spending actually went up for other programs: the National Institutes of Health, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Indian Health Service, Bureau of Land Management, for instance.
Again, I ask: what happened? The House did, after all, pass a serious budget with real cuts in it and a plan for entitlement reform. But Obama and the Democratic Party-controlled Senate simply blocked everything else. In the Senate, the Democrats simply refused to propose a budget of their own so those negotiations could be carried out—no discussion at all occurred. The Democrats scored Congressman Paul Ryan (R, WI) for being so rude as to propose changing entitlements, instead of debating the matter, or offering their own ideas.
And the Republican leadership acted like a bunch of neophytes and idiots. The Republicans failed to respond to the attacks on Ryan for his proposals. They got conned by a boxer from Nevada and a small-time neighborhood organizer from Chicago. Republicans were suckered into secret meetings with Obama, who publically assured all who would listen that he really wanted fiscal discipline, and then in those secret meetings, he demanded $1 trillion in tax hikes. When the Republicans could not accept that increase, Obama attacked them publically for blowing up the negotiations. Then they let the Democrats beat them up over payroll tax cuts instead of calling the Democrats out for defunding Social Security and pushing instead for income tax cuts—of the permanent kind—of the same per centage reductions as the Dems’ payroll cuts.
It went like that all year. Republican naïve (naïve! after all their years in Washington) leadership being played like a cheap fiddle, and they were unable to respond. Maybe this crop of Republican leaders are too used to being in the minority, too used to losing: they no longer know how to win. Worse, they no longer have actual conservative principles to defend and to push for.
The WSJ suggests this for the Republicans:
They need to draw contrasts with Democrats on taxes, spending, regulation and reform that at least educate the public about what’s at stake. Pick some programs and make them budget-cutting showcases. Use the savings to finance tax cuts that promote growth. Or simply vote for tax reform whether or not it is “revenue neutral” under Congress’s silly budget rules. Follow votes in the House by bringing pro-growth bills to the Senate and forcing Democrats to vote up or down, as they did with the Keystone XL pipeline.
Maybe the Republicans need new leadership—in both chambers—before they’ll be able to do this. The current crop of leaders started strong—and then let the community organizer lead them around like a trained pony.