Tea Party Economics Is Republican Economics

November 01, 2011 4:28 pm ET — Jamison Foser

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Conservative activist and writer David Frum, a speechwriter in the Bush Administration, worries that the "tea party could drive GOP to disaster" due to its fondness for nonsensical economic theories: 

The tea party stands for a series of propositions that don't meet the reality test: that deficits matter more than jobs, that cutting deficits and tightening credit will accelerate economic growth, that high taxes and over-regulation are the most important reasons that growth has not revived, and that America still offers the world's best opportunity for the poor to rise. Tea party plans call for a radical shift in the burden of taxation from the rich to the poor -- and promise big reductions in government spending without touching any of the benefits of current retirees.

If put into practice, the tea party platform is a formula for political and economic crisis.

That's a pretty good summary of the Tea Party's morally and mathematically bankrupt economic policies. But Frum is wrong about one thing: He thinks Tea Party Republicans and "non-tea party Republicans," represented by Mitt Romney, each constitute about half of the party. In fact, the Tea Party and the Republican Party are one and the same. That "series of propositions that don't meet the reality test" constitutes the mainstream Republican worldview, expressed in varying forms by nearly every significant national Republican. The GOP has already embraced this disastrous formula, and it has already created "economic crisis."

We can see the extent to which the Republican Party has embraced this economic snake oil by looking at two prominent figures not generally thought of as Tea Party Republicans: Mitt Romney, explicitly identified by Frum as the presidential candidate of "non-tea party Republicans," and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), widely considered the least conservative Senate Republican.

"Deficits matter more than jobs"

  • Romney: "The mission to restore America begins with getting our fiscal house in order. [...] Exercise fiscal responsibility to restore economic opportunity. [...] Mitt Romney will bring fiscal restraint to Washington by placing a hard cap on federal spending to force our government to live within its means and put an end to deficit spending."
  • Snowe: "While I support the continuation of pro-growth policies, given that the federal deficit for Fiscal Year 2009 was a breathtaking $1.4 trillion and the Administration is projecting deficits of $9.1 trillion over the next ten years, Congress must do more to pair the resources targeted to job creation with reductions in other areas."
  • Snowe: "A projected $1.6 trillion deficit that outpaces this year's record of $1.4 trillion is wholly unacceptable, and in this uncharted fiscal territory of unparalleled budget deficits, we should do far more to reduce government and reorient our priorities to restore long-term fiscal stability to our nation.  No family could run their financial house in such an irresponsible manner and it is time for the federal government - which will be borrowing more than 68 percent of the economy by the end of next year and 77 percent by 2020 - to make the kind of tough choices Americans are confronted with every day."

"Cutting deficits and tightening credit will accelerate economic growth"

  • Romney: "The only recipe for fiscal health and a thriving private economy is a government that spends within its means. Mitt Romney will immediately move to cut spending and cap it at 20 percent of GDP. As spending comes under control, he will pursue further cuts that would allow caps to be set even lower so as to guarantee future fiscal stability. As a first step in this direction, Romney will move immediately to cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent."
  • Snowe: "It is past time we recalibrate our national priorities from those that are viscerally anti-private sector and anti-growth to ones that place America on a trajectory of global prosperity, and there should be no question this transformation must begin with a raft of regulatory, tax, and budget reforms that are the three pillars of an economic agenda for watershed change for America's future."
  • Snowe: "When one remedy after another fails to solve the crisis, it is long past time for the alarm bells to sound for Congress to address what exactly is imperiling the small businesses we depend on to create jobs.  If you listen to those businesses, as I do on my Main Street tours, they will tell you loud and clear: they want a simpler tax code, fewer regulations, and a practical solution to the nation's debt and deficit."

"High taxes and over-regulation are the most important reasons that growth has not revived"

  • Romney: "No small part of the answer has to do with the wrenches the Obama administration has thrown into the economy. Badly misguided policies have acted as a severe drag on growth. [...] We can also count the vast expansion of costly and cumbersome regulation of sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to finance to health care. When the price of doing business in America rises, it does not come as a surprise that entrepreneurs and enterprises cut back, let employees go, and delay hiring."
  • Snowe: "U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) says momentum is building in favor of comprehensive regulatory reform to reduce needlessly burdensome red tape stifling economic growth and job creation. [...] 'Indisputably, we require an economic game-changer to reverse the disturbing and lasting trend of nine-percent unemployment across the country.  Removing needless red tape and inefficient bureaucratic barriers to job creation will promote economic growth nationwide, but the longer Congress dithers, the longer we will see high unemployment and all the negative impacts connected to it.'"
  • Snowe: "Despite President Barack Obama's talk about how his administration seeks to boost employment, his federal agencies are helping to create this remarkably difficult job market. The cost of complying with inefficient, ineffective and needlessly onerous government regulations is one thing preventing job creators from hiring. [...] Policymakers must do a better job of removing impediments to American prosperity - starting with long-overdue regulatory reform."
  • Snowe: "Our needlessly onerous federal regulatory regime is stifling opportunities for business expansion and there are specific proposals pending in Congress right now, including my regulatory reform bill that has received majority support in the Senate, that would provide our nation's job creators with the freedom and confidence they require to hire more workers.  I've also urged for years that we overhaul our overly-complex tax structure that is inhibiting economic expansion and America's global competitiveness." 

"Call for a radical shift in the burden of taxation from the rich to the poor"

  • Romney: "As president, Romney will hold the line on individual income tax rates and eliminate taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains for low- and middle-income taxpayers. He will eliminate the estate tax. And he will pursue a conservative overhaul that applies lower and flatter rates to a broader tax base. Romney will also reform the corporate tax system. He will immediately lower the corporate income tax rate, and then explore opportunities to further lower the marginal rate while broadening the tax base."
  • Snowe: "[T]he tax code should promote savings and investment, the drivers of long-term growth. [...] [T]he tax code must not be a barrier to American business competitiveness in the global economy.  We have the second highest corporate tax burden in the industrialized world today."
  • Snowe: "America's Tax Code is 70,000 pages of unnecessarily complex rules. [...] worse than that, after decades of attempts to add 'fairness,' the old system has resulted in nearly 50 percent of Americans paying no federal income taxes at all."

"Promise big reductions in government spending without touching any of the benefits of current retirees"

  • Romney: "Reform entitlement programs to keep them solvent and put America on a path to prosperity. Federal spending on entitlement programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security has not only spiraled out of control, but has placed their very solvency in danger. [...] While reforms are needed, Mitt also believes that these changes should not reduce benefits for current seniors or break the promises they have relied upon for their economic security in retirement."
  • Snowe: "Olympia Snowe was a staunch and vocal advocate for fiscal sanity long before it was in style. Olympia has supported and championed a constitutional balanced budget amendment since her very first days in Congress - having co-sponsored such an amendment 18 times. [...] She knows we cannot afford to continue on our current spending binge, which has resulted in today's out-of-control budget deficits, where 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed.  That is why she has also voted for legislation in the Senate that would reduce spending, cap future federal expenditures without balancing the budget on the backs of seniors or veterans, and provide congressional approval of a constitutional balanced budget amendment - to ensure that once we're on the right fiscal path, we never return to the recklessness of the past and present."

That's the state of the Republican Party: Its most "moderate" senator and presidential candidate regularly espouse falsehoods and fantasies that a speechwriter to George W. Bush correctly identifies as politically extreme and economically disastrous.

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