While I have strongly praised the GOP for embracing entitlement reform and supporting the Ryan budget, I’m not under any illusions that the average Republican politician is fully committed to free markets and limited government.
Even after the Tea Party election of 2010, there have been some very disappointing moments.
- Republicans have been using Keynesian arguments to oppose budget cuts.
- Republicans have expanded federal transportation funding.
- Republicans have increased the budget of the Export-Import Bank.
- Republicans have boosted subsidies for housing.
This doesn’t mean that GOPers are hopeless, but it does confirm my point that almost all politicians are a combination of good and bad impulses. It’s sort of like they have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder.
So who is winning, the angel or the devil? The Wall Street Journal opines in favor of the angel.
Four years in the wilderness seem to have had the salutary effect of returning the Party of Lincoln to a focus on government reform and economic revival. …The surprise is how quickly the GOP has rebounded from the routs of 2006 and 2008, starting in the states. …The reform momentum has since gained speed as a reaction to the Obama Presidency. First in 2009 with Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia, Governors from the East across the Midwest and through the Southwest have won on reform agendas that they have been able to implement to varying degrees. …The common theme is ‘s ability to finance them. The contrast of these GOP states couldn’t be greater with the union-dominated Democratic governments of Illinois, California and Connecticut, which resist reform and simply default to ever-higher taxes. …The reform impulse has carried over to Washington, thanks to the Congressional victories of 2010. …Much of the credit here goes to the Tea Party, which has used GOP primaries to elevate reformers and motivate incumbents to change or face defeat.
I agree with much of the column, particularly the credit to the Tea Party and the indirect reference (“restraining governments that were growing far more rapidly than the private economy”) to Mitchell’s Golden Rule.
But I’m more pessimistic about whether the GOP has truly learned the right lessons from the failures of Bush-Rove era. Take this quiz and see if you share my qualms.
- If Mitt Romney wins and proposes to burden the U.S. economy with a value-added tax, would a majority of Republicans rise up in revolt and oppose that dangerous idea?
- If Mitt Romney wins and decides to only make cosmetic changes to Obamacare, would most Republicans rebel and push to fully repeal the costly legislation?
- If Mitt Romney wins and endorses a new version of TARP, would the Republican caucus stand firm in opposition?
To be blunt, I don’t think a majority of Republicans would do the right thing if these tests took place. The GOP leaders on the Hill, after all, are the same crowd that gladly supported all the reckless spending and foolish intervention of the Bush years.
So what’s it all mean? Well, as the cartoon indicates, Republicans are now more likely to say the right thing. But rhetoric is easy. I’m much more interested in their actions.
The only great president of my lifetime famously said “trust, but verify.” But I don’t even trust the GOP, so I definitely want to see results first.