Brendan Miniter makes a strong point in a Wall Street Journal opinion article that spendthrift Republicans risk serious losses in next year’s elections because they “don't know how to control spending and are at a loss as to why they even should.” Miniter says that Congressional Republicans have long abandoned the small government and conservatism themes, but that the Katrina relief affair has “has peeled back the lid on Republican rule and many Americans aren't happy with what they see.”
Miniter says that deficit spending of itself does not threaten Republican constituents. Indeed, my friend Lysis points out here that “the deficit spending of FDR together with the Marshal Plan and the rebuilding of Japan, at great expense to Americans; enunciated the second great economic boom of the twentieth century.” What threatens Republican constituencies is deficit spending that “endangers the broader conservative agenda.”
Miniter says that Katrina relief spending coupled with outrageous domestic spending has crossed that line. While there have been past successes, Miniter asks, “but what has the GOP done lately?” He also asks what many voters will undoubtedly be thinking next year, “But if Republicans no longer believe in smaller government, why not put the Democrats back in charge?” Miniter bolsters my argument that Republicans “are reducing their ability to differentiate themselves from the Democrats.”
Of course, the Republicans have a chance to turn this around and to work toward building President Bush’s “ownership society.” Miniter says some efforts already on tap such as the President’s plan to give away “federal land in the hard-hit areas” and $5000 job training accounts for Katrina evacuees are good starts. He also offers other suggestions.
“A bolder step would be to move forward with private Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security accounts. Federal policies that encourage and facilitate owning assets--especially a home--enable individuals to get off of public assistance and will be embraced by even moderate voters.”Those things are nice, but they really amount to putting bandages over a festering wound without treating it. Fiscal discipline needs to become essential to Republicans. That will require national leadership on the issue. It’s obviously not coming from the President. That leaves a tremendous opportunity for other leaders to stand up and provide it. The ones who do will be battered by the D.C. spendocracy, but if they deliver this message Americans need to hear voters will choose them.