Friday, April 3, 2009

Yup. . . What He Said

Slate writer Christopher Beam has written an essay that persuasively analyzes the GOP effort to construct an "alternative" budget. Beam argues that the Republicans fell for the Democrats' "bait" and rushed to do something that opposition parties rarely do: Produce full budgets of their own even when their proposals have absolutely no chance of mustering votes outside of the opposition party. The reviews of the GOP budget have been almost universally bad.

Recently, I had a conversation with a good friend during which I made very similar arguments as Beam does in his essay. I had initially planned to elaborate my ideas on the subject, but thanks to Beam, I can focus on other things.

Here is a clip from Beam's essay:
Opposition parties typically present an alternative—sometimes more than one—to the administration's budget. But it's by no means required. And for good reason: If the party doesn't control Congress, the budget stands little chance, anyway, making it more important as a rhetorical device than as a fiscal blueprint. And when the process is rhetorical, the minority generally does better when forcing the majority to defend its position rather than explaining its own. . . .

Yet somehow Obama managed to goad the opposition into producing its own full-blown alternative. First it was the DNC, labeling the GOP the "party of 'no.' " Obama joined in at his press conference last Tuesday: "[T]here's an interesting reason why some of these critics haven't put out their own budget. . . .And the reason is because they know that, in fact, the biggest driver of long-term deficits are the huge health care costs that we've got out here that we're going to have to tackle."

The Republicans took the bait, and the results have not been pretty. The first draft—more a statement of principles than a budget—was widely mocked. . . .It also allowed White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to twist the knife on prime time: "The party of 'no' has become the party of no ideas."

The second draft, released Wednesday, is substantive but does little more than reiterate familiar GOP policies. It cuts entitlement spending, extends the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, simplifies the tax system so people pay either 10 percent or 25 percent on income, and imposes a five-year spending freeze. . . .
Related Reading on Dissenting Justice: GOP Releases Problem-Laden Alternative "Budget" Preview

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