alien & sedition.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
  Rudy, the GOP, and Spending: The Binge-and-Purge Mentality

Cross-posted at The Right's Field.

The notion that the GOP lost in 2006 because of spending is absurd. It's not just absurd; it's verging on insane. While it may be true that ridiculous earmarks like Don Young's "bridge to nowhere" helped contribute to the general air of corruption surrounding the Republican party, spending per se had nothing to do with the GOP's midterm defeat.

But, for reasons I'll get to in a minute, Republicans themselves like very much to tell themselves that the defeat had everything to do with spending. And Rudy Giuliani is indulging them. He may actually believe what he's saying -- when it comes to economics, Giuliani believes in a lot of very silly things, like the notion that cutting taxes always leads to an increase in tax revenue. Or he may simply be saying it to curry favor with the Club for Growth crowd (if so, it's working). In either case, Rudy insists that he's the only one who can restore the GOP's mythical fiscal discipline. Again, this assertion is logically incompatible with his embrace of supply-side ideas. But neither is it supported by his record as mayor of NYC.

While Giuliani likes to take credit for "23 tax cuts" during his time at City Hall, FactCheck.org has documented that the truth is quite different:
A new radio ad boasts that Rudy Giuliani "cut or eliminated 23 taxes" while mayor of New York City, a boast he and his supporters have repeated many times on the campaign trail. We find that to be an overstatement. Giuliani can properly claim credit for initiating only 14 of those cuts.

In fact, he strongly opposed one of the largest cuts for which he claims credit, reversing himself only after a five-month standoff with the city council. In addition, the ad's claim that Giuliani turned the budget deficit he inherited into a surplus, while true enough, ignores the fact that he also left a multibillion-dollar deficit for his successor, not including costs associated with 9/11.

As CNBC reports:
[A] closer look at the numbers show he's claiming credit for some tax cuts that weren't his idea to begin with. And others that he actively opposed.

For instance, seven tax cuts that he says were his were actually initiated by New York State. Giuliani may have supported the measures, but they were never floated by his office. That's according to the Independent Budget Office, a publicly funded watchdog group.

Then there's the granddaddy of New York tax cuts -- the ending of a 12.5% surcharge on personal income tax. Giuliani cites it as his No. 1 achievement on taxes -- and he did initially propose it, but then later dropped his support for the measure, even fighting it before finally giving in to the city council. It was the largest New York City tax cut in history.

Of course, even if we do give Giuliani credit as a tax-cutter, that has little to do with fiscal discipline, while that multibillion dollar deficit is a good indicator of his lack of it.

In an era where Republican politicians have gone over to the supply side en masse, does it even make sense to associate the GOP with "fiscal discipline" anymore? Giuliani's right about the breakdown in that reputation, but for entirely the wrong reasons.

Ultimately all this conservative self-flagellation over spending serves a particular purpose -- by a strange kind of alchemy, it transforms the GOP's well-earned reputation for corruption into a reaffirmation of conservative principle. Spending itself becomes corruption. The answer to government corruption, we're told, is to cut government spending. Personally, if there's a party that can't tell the difference between government and corruption, I don't want that party in government.

The modern Republican party has a very strange relationship to spending. It's almost like an eating disorder -- the party binges on wars, tax cuts, pork, and ill-conceived efforts to win voters away from the Democrats on issues like Medicare. Then it rhetorically purges, denouncing universal health care as "socialism" and promising to drown its own ugly governing body in the bathtub. It all seems very unhealthy to me.

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