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The GOP’s Pyrrhic Victory: Why It Won’t Work, Pt. 2

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series GOP's Pyrrhic Victory

It Hasn’t Worked

Karl Rove actually gets it. Sort of. He at least understands that voters didn’t toss out the Democrats because they are “enraptured with the GOP,” when he tells Republicans that it’s “time to deliver.” It just too bad for the GOP — and, now, the rest of the country — that they won’t anything Americans haven’t already sent back to the kitchen.

If what we heard and saw from them leading up to the election is any indication, the GOP doesn’t have any new ideas. Their platform recycles the same old conservative policy that failed before, and got us into a mess we’ll be trying to get out of for a while.

Late into the Bush administration, it became something of a joke that the president’s answer to everything was “Tax cut!” It was like he had a bad case of “Tax Cut Tourette’s Syndrome.” If so, today’s GOP has it just as bad. Tax cuts are their answer to everything, too. And we know how well that worked last time.

It turns out, tax cuts have little positive impact on the economy. According to the CBO, tax cuts offer the smallest “bang for the buck”, making them the least effective way to spur the economy and reduce unemployment.Tax cuts for the wealthy don’t stimulate the economy because the rich don’t spend tax cuts, so the money never makes it back into the economy.

Thus the Bush tax cuts never delivered the prosperity Republicans promised, mostly benefited the rich, and make the rest of us poorer.

But Republicans are hell bent on making those tax cuts (and their consequences) permanent. Mitch McConnell introduce legislation to do just that in the Senate, and the idea is central to the GOP’s “Plan for America” — which, by the way, doesn’t even mention some of America’s biggest challenges right now.

Republicans have made a lot of noise about the deficit, and scared more than a few Democrats-Who-Should-Know-Better™ into doing the same. Never mind the current deficit is the product of a decade of conservative failure. Never mind that extending tax cuts for the wealthy would add more to the deficit than the stimulus and health care reform combined. Never mind that the “Pledge to America” offered no credible plan to reduce the deficit, while Democrats shrank the deficit in the last fiscal year. Never mind that revenue rose and spending fell in the past fiscal year.

Never mind that health care reform reduce the deficit by $143 billion, if left alone. The GOP wants to repeal health care reform and “replace” it with more of the status quo, plus a plan that’s basically a recipe for a “race to the bottom” in health care coverage.

Never mind all that, because the GOP turned anxiety about the economy into anxiety about the deficit and won. Too bad they won’t do much to lower it. Republicans can’t say how they’ll pay for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which would add $3.9 trillion to the deficit. Despite calling for trillions in tax cuts, their “Pledge” offers just $100 billion in non-specific spending cuts. If you get specific, they save the most painful cuts for everything from public education to housing, health care, and cancer research.

All this, the say, will create jobs. More specifically, tax cuts for the wealthy that they won’t spend and that will explode the deficit, will create jobs. It didn’t work before. The Bush era, when the GOP had a virtual lock on government (and got far less resistance than they should have from Democrats after 2006), was an era of zero job growth. In fact, Bush left office with the worst record on job creation since the government started keeping records.

Left, right and center — every one agrees that America needs jobs. (Or at least everyone says they agree.) Aside from their desire to kill off a stimulus that created more jobs in less than two years than Bush and the Republicans did in eight, the most specific plan Republicans have offered is John Boehner’s two-step job creation plan: lock in the Bush tax cuts and go back to the 2008 budget.

Never mind that it won’t work.

So on the one hand, a measure that will make a small dent in the deficit. On the other hand, a measure that will lead to a huge increase in the deficit. There’s no theory of the economy in which this really makes sense: If the market is worried about the government’s finances, this makes them worse, not better. If we need lower tax rates, then simply holding the tax rates at the level that produced 2010’s disappointing economic performance isn’t enough.

It’s also worth noting that these policies are both stale: The Bush tax cuts are, well, the Bush tax cuts. They’re tax policy from 10 years ago, designed to deal with a very different set of circumstances. And the 2008 budget is, similarly, just an arbitrary number from some point in the past. Our economic situation has changed dramatically in the past few years. Don’t Republicans have any fresh thinking on what to do about it?

Fresh thinking? That’s not what the GOP is selling. And despite Kathleen Parker’s smarmy post-election advice to Democrats that “You can’t sell people what they don’t want,” people don’t want what the GOP is selling. And they didn’t punish Democrats for not selling it to them. They want what they were sold, and what they enthusiastically voted for in 2008. They punished the Democrats for falling short on delivery, not by voting for Republicans, but by staying home and not voting at all.

Americans want job creation, now — not “cut-taxes-and-hope-for-the-best.” They want an economy that works for all, and not just the top 1%. They want to know they will have access to health care if they need it. They want social security in their old age.

They won’t get any it from Republicans in Congress, and they won’t reward them for not failing to deliver. But Democrats may have an opening if they can convince voters that they got the message, and will fight finish what they started, and deliver what they promised and what Americans voted for in 2008 — and if they can get their base back to the polls.

Series NavigationThe GOP’s Pyrrhic Victory: Why It Won’t Work, Pt. 3

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