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January 27, 2011

Rand Paul's $500 Billion Budget Cut Plan: The Specifics

Many people will be happy to see so many departments and agencies simply abolished here.

In many cases he's just returning spending to 2008 levels.

It's my personal pet meme (which I got from someone else) that 1998 should be the goal. There is a good reason for this: Clinton, a Democrat in good standing, was president. Further, the economy was doing gangbusters business (except when it slipped into a small recession at the end of his term, but economies do that, even basically sound ones).

I know some people don't like the idea of giving credit to Clinton in this way, and want to say it was the Republican Congress that restrained spending. Fine, but I don't really care about the credit/blame thing; I'm looking at rhetorical effectiveness. Most Americans appreciate that the economy boomed under Clinton (or Clinton/Gingrich, if you will); and that message was hammered home for 8 years under Bush by a media determined to compare the two, as of course Bush lost most comparisons.

Have you noticed? Since Obama took office the media is no longer interested in comparing the current president's economy to Clinton's. See, Clinton set a high standard, so the comparison tends to be a punitive one; so the comparison was made endlessly for Bush, but not at all for Obama.

I think that needs to be remedied. We need to start holding Obama to the standard established by the media and the Democrats for success, and that's Clinton's (or Clinton/Gingrich's) booming economy.

Democrats like Obama love to say "I just want to raise taxes to the Clinton level; the economy did well with that level of taxation, didn't it?"

Ah... Yes, well, the GOP's new slogan should be "I just want to cut spending to the Clinton level; the economy did well with that level of spending, didn't it?"

Why should they be permitted to endlessly crow that Clinton-levels of taxation didn't significantly wound the economy without having it pointed out, vigorously, that Clinton-levels of spending seem to be a far more likely reason for the economy's success in this era?

Some might not like this idea, since, they'd say, that the implication becomes we should return to both Clinton tax levels and Clinton spending levels. I don't think that's a strong objection, because, first of all, the other side is already making the case for Clinton levels of taxation (as a start-- if you think Obama's grand plan of changing the nation stops there, you're on crack). So, really, we're not fighting that meme, we're just not showing up for the fight at all.

Secondly, people don't want to be taxed at higher rates, period. You almost don't even have to make this argument. We should make anti-tax arguments, but this point is sort of already 80% won for us already, just because no one wants to pay the high taxes associated with a European socialist state.

So I think the meme really will not hurt us in those terms, in terms of suggesting we need Clinton levels of taxation.

Seriously, I know some political professionals read this site; can anyone tell me why this sort of idea -- Return to 1998's level of spending burden if you want to return to 1998's level of growth -- isn't a good one? Why isn't anyone pursuing this?

The Democrats made a lot of hay establishing 1998 as the proper baseline of comparison for economic success during the Bush years. Let's bring that back, eh?

Other Benefits: One thing Michele Bachmann did that I thought was weak as hell was suggest that almost all of our problems are attributable to Barack Obama.

Paul Ryan, on the other hand, admitted almost immediately that the GOP had failed too and needed to do better.

Just as a rhetorical exercise, Paul Ryan seemed far less partisan and therefore far more persuasive on this point. People like hearing that their leaders are examining themselves for error, trying to improve themselves, and not just blaming it on a convenient scapegoat.

Further, I thought Bachmann's suggestion (she didn't actually say it, just implied it) is actually way off message for the Tea Party -- the Tea Party is ostensibly non-partisan and blames both parties, not just the Democrats. So Bachmann's suggestion there is actually more like "Old style GOP politics" and Ryan's confession of shared guilt is more like the Tea Party spirit, that both parties have grown the government and both parties need to get serious about limited government and lower spending.

Finally, of course: Ryan's statement is true whereas Bachmann's suggestion was false. Bush grew the government hugely -- he'd be the biggest Big Government president in a generation if it weren't for his successor.

It was actually Clinton -- checkmated by Gingrich, true, but still, his name was on top of the government -- who kept spending somewhat in check. True, he did so by cutting the military (the peace dividend that wasn't), and grew the bureaucracy and spent more on the social safety net and so on, but still, his rate of government growth was fairly low compared to Bush's.

Republicans like to hearken back, constantly, to Reagan. That's understandable, but it sounds partisan, and besides, many people weren't even adults during Reagan's economy, whereas far more remember Clinton's economy.

Calling for a return to 1998 rates of spending -- and implicitly crediting Clinton (and Gingrich) -- sounds nonpartisan, repudiates Bush's spending (which almost all conservatives wish to repudiate), and is more effective, as more people can remember how well the country did then.

Plus, again, rhetorically, it's devastating: How can liberals who have made their hay off Clinton's economy for going on 13 years now argue that 1998's spending levels were harmful to the economy and "evil" in punishing the "most vulnerable" (as Obama now likes to call everyone getting a government check)?

Well, they can do that, as they must do that, but you have to admit, it's a tricky argument for them to make.

I think the public will be on board with this, really. This isn't pride of authorship because I didn't suggest this. I forget who did. But this whole line of argument was immediately appealing to me; I have to imagine a lot of other people will find it appealing too.

How can Democrats claim that 1998's spending -- their beloved Clinton's spending -- was inhumane and heartless? They can't, really, at least not without admitting that they're committed tax-and-spend liberals who never, ever really supported these policies in the first place. In which case, they can also not claim credit for the 1990's red-hot economy.

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posted by Ace at 12:00 PM

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