GOP officials, unwilling to concede anything in new revenues to reach a compromise that would replace the sequester, have taken to claiming that the sequester is a “victory” for them, since they wanted spending cuts all along. But is being the party of austerity-only-and-forever really a sustainable long term position?
A Republican pollster is now warning his fellow Republicans that it isn’t. Politico reports this morning on a poll taken by GOP pollster John McLaughlin for the nonprofit YG Network, an organization devoted to promoting center right policies and candidates. The key takeaway: Building your whole agenda around spending cuts and deficit reduction is bad politics.
The poll finds that nearly twice as many respondents name the economy and jobs as their central concern than say the same about deficits. This is also key:
Asked to choose one government program they would be willing to cut, only 14 percent of respondents named Social Security or Medicare. Just over three quarters – 76 percent – picked military spending or other, unspecified “welfare programs.” [...]
While public polls have shown the GOP continues to perform well on questions related to spending, the outcome of the 2012 election raised serious questions about the political potency of a message overwhelmingly anchored in hawkishness on the national debt. There are persistent doubts, even among foes of public spending, that a majority of the electorate is prepared to reward legislators for implementing deep cuts to government.
John Murray, who heads the YG Network, confirmed that the poll was “specifically designed to challenge the assumption that spending cuts as a central theme is sufficient.”
Putting aside the merits of this particular poll, it is important that a respected GOP pollster is telling his party that the public’s willingness to say it likes spending cuts in the abstract does not give the GOP a genuine advantage, that when the talk turns to cutting specific programs, the public suddenly balks, and that being the party of spending cuts only is not a good political posture over the long term.
Of course, it’s unclear whether these warnings will translate into a willingness on the part of Republicans to embrace new revenues. As I noted here yesterday, top GOP officials essentially confirmed on the Sunday shows that no ratio of new spending cuts to new revenues is acceptable to them. But there is no realistic scenario under which Democrats agree to serious entitlement cuts without new revenues, so until this position changes, we’re very likely going to remain stuck in extended sequestration. This means the GOP — in claiming sequestration as a victory — will remain the party of austerity-only-and-forever and crisis-to-crisis governing.
Politico comments that this new poll designed to “nudge Republicans toward adopting a comprehensive political agenda that appeals to the middle class.” And yet, the party remains united behind the Paul Ryan vision that was decisively defeated in the last election. It combines extraordinarily deep spending cuts to a range of government programs that poor and middle class Americans rely upon with deep tax rate cuts that would hugely and disproportionately fall to the wealthy. It’s true that we don’t know what the tax burden on the rich in the Ryan plan will look like in the end, because it promises to target loopholes and deductions to offset the rate cuts. But a new report by the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities casts serious doubt on whether the tax rate cuts can be paid for without targeting loopholes enjoyed by the middle class. If this report is right, Republicans are again getting ensnared by the same trap — the result of prioritizing tax rate cuts for the rich — that tripped up Mitt Romney last year.
It’s good that a GOP pollster has expressed skepticism that being the party of austerity-only is not sustainable. But the next step for Republicans is to admit that their stance on revenues is not sustainable, either, and to stop deluding the base into thinking that total victory for the GOP is a likely outcome.
* Chutzpah award of the day: It goes to John Boehner, for this remarkable quote about Obama and the fiscal debate:
“His idea of compromise is, ‘Do it my way.’ ”
Of course, Obama has offered Republicans entitlement cuts in exchange for new revenues, which is to say, a compromise in which both sides make concessions. Meanwhile, Boehner’s explicit position — confirmed yesterday on ABC news — is that the only acceptable “compromise” is one that gives Republicans 100 percent of what they want. To adopt Boehner’s own quote, the Speaker’s idea of compromise is, do it my way.
* GOP Senator admits Obama has agreed to deficit reduction: Senator Judd Gregg has an op ed in The Hill in which he calls on both parties to reach a deal on the deficit. This nugget jumps out:
The good news is that the president and Congress have accomplished a hard $2.5 trillion-plus of debt reduction already.
Do tell! Why is this fact so rarely admitted to by GOP officials?
* Obama to tap Thomas Perez: White House officials confirm that the President will nominate Thomas Perez as his labor secretary. Tapping the first Latino cabinet member in his second term could mute criticism of Obama for failing to have enough diversity in his cabinet. Perez is a solid and effective progressive, so both sides will see him as worth fighting over. (fixed)
* Is the fight over gay marriage over? Chris Geidner has posted a remarkable juxtaposition of photos taken at the Conservative Political Action Conference demonstrating that gay marriage foes spoke to a mostly empty room, while those urging a more tolerant stance for the GOP attracted large crowds. That’s all good, but perhaps someone should show these pictures to GOP Congressional officials?
* Conservatives and “American greatness’: E.J. Dionne has a good piece examining the contradiction at play among conservatives who want to roll back government’s role in protecting the poor, elderly and vulnerable while maintaining a robust, and expensive, military presence abroad in the world. As Dionne notes, today’s conservatives are far outside the post-World War II bipartisan consensus around government’s role in helping build and sustain the “American greatness” they continue to expound upon.
* The NRA opposed disarming men in domestic violence disputes: The New York Times has an excellent piece on efforts by the NRA and the “gun rights” brigade to beat back legislative efforts in multiple states to force people who have protection orders against them to relinquish their guns, something domestic violence experts have advocated for: “Their argument is rooted in a grim statistic: when women die at the hand of an intimate partner, that hand is more often than not holding a gun.”
Of course, the gun rights crowd will argue that all of this only proves that women need to get guns themselves.
* And have we learned anything from Iraq? Paul Krugman likens the commentariat’s behavior in the run-up to the Iraq War to its current groupthink about the deficit and debt:
Now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?
How much media discussion has there been about the plan released by House progressives, which prioritizes unemployment and jobs as the primary short-term challenge facing the country?