AEI's Conard: Republicans Doing Right by Fighting for Spending Cuts

Monday, 14 Oct 2013 04:34 PM

By Dan Weil

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Republicans are doing the right thing by taking a principled stand in favor of spending reductions, says Edward Conard, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

"With federal expenditures running 30 percent higher than revenues, debt at nearly twice the historical average, and no significant improvement in sight, is it any wonder that a contingent of conservative legislators is willing to ignore political expediency and stand on principle instead?" he writes on Politico.

Federal spending has increased twice as fast as gross domestic product over the past 10 years, making the budget deficit explode, says Conard, a former managing director at Bain Capital.

"Because of the size of this annual deficit, America’s publicly held debt — currently an unprecedented $12 trillion — continues to grow relative to GDP with no end in sight," he writes.

"It’s clear America needs reduction."

But President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats won't negotiate cuts for entitlement spending.

"Instead, they have campaigned relentlessly for more spending," Conard says.

"Democrats refuse to allow discussion of ways to better target sequestration-mandated cuts, because they fear that doing so would make the reduced spending levels more palatable and thus permanent."

Fortunately, Republicans in Congress have some say, Conard writes:

"Agreeing to increase the debt limit and pass the continuing funding resolution are the House Republican majority’s only hand to play against the president and Senate Democrats."

Compromise is a necessity, Conard says. "But because of a lack of leadership by moderates in both parties, the opposite has occurred here."

Moderate Republicans have reason to be concerned about the political ramifications of a pitched battle with the Democrats over the budget, Conard says.

"But it is hardly certain that a more pragmatic approach, even if it wins back the Senate, will bring better results, given the president’s veto power," he writes.

"There is little incentive for Democrats to trade significant entitlement reform for tax increases when mandatory spending increases outlays without the need to pass legislation with a majority of Congress."

Some have criticized Republicans for focusing on Obamacare rather than entitlements in general.

"But critics forget that spending is fungible," Conard writes.

"For any level of taxation, growth in one program crowds out spending on other programs. Cost reduction is simply a matter of priorities. Republicans value preserving Medicare and avoiding tax increases over expanding Obamacare."

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