The GOP’s latest gestures toward fiscal responsibility ring hollow

The business model of the modern Republican Party does not produce real-world budget discipline. So today, GOP lawmakers turn to make-believe.

Within the last four months, the Republican president and party leaders in Congress took two actions that dramatically expand federal deficits. On a party-line vote, they cut taxes by $150 billion a year, then increased spending by $150 billion a year in cooperation with Democrats.

Now, as the Congressional Budget Office projects the return of $1 trillion annual deficits, congressional plan a gesture for constituents alarmed by rising debt. The House will vote on Thursday on a constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers to balance the federal budget.

The amendment lacks enough support to pass. Nor would GOP lawmakers want it to, since they have demonstrated unwillingness to make the policy choices the amendment would require.

In a second gesture, the White House is preparing to ask Congress to rescind some of the spending increases that Trump signed weeks ago. Bipartisan opposition from lawmakers who just affirmed them with their votes makes it unlikely such a proposal can pass.

Evidence suggests that gestures are the best the 21st century GOP can do. Decades of evolution have produced overlapping but disparate Republican segments whose priorities consistently drive deficits up.

Backers of supply-side economics dominate Republican tax policy. Urged on by GOP donors on Wall Street and in executive suites, they press continually to cut taxes.

Advocates of limited government welcome the resulting reduction of federal revenue. They want Washington to do less.

But proponents of strengthening America’s military posture want more, so they pursue larger and larger Pentagon budgets. And older, working-class whites who disdain Wall Street and depend on government programs increasingly define the GOP voting base.

Specifically, those voters want to protect their benefits under Social Security and Medicare, both now ballooning as the massive baby boom generation retires. Conservative ideologues opposed those programs from their inception but have failed to roll them back.



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