The Republican Road to Recovery
On Thursday, Republicans began to roll out their alternative to the president's gargantuan $3.6 trillion budget. While they have yet to spell out exact figures or provide the comprehensive budget itself, the "Republican Road to Recovery" does preview their plan and goes some distance toward shooting down the Democrats' spin that Republicans have "no ideas."
The plan is summarized as follows:
- Limits the Federal Budget from Growing Faster than Family Budgets
Instead of spending money on wasteful programs under the guise of "stimulus" and "investments," Republicans seek to ensure that the federal budget cannot grow faster than families' ability to pay the bill.
- Provides Universal Access to Health Care and Secures Entitlements
Instead of accelerating the demise of our nation's large entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and creating new unsustainable entitlements, Republicans seek to provide universal access to affordable health care and to address our entitlements' trillion dollar unfunded liabilities with common sense reforms that ensure our children and grandchildren can secure future benefits.
- Lowers Taxes
Instead of raising taxes on all Americans in the midst of a recession, Republicans seek to reduce the tax burden on working families and small businesses, in order to create jobs and unlock private capital.
- Keeps Energy and Fuel Costs Low
Instead of taxing all energy users with a new national energy tax that will cost up to $3,128 per household, Republicans want energy independence with increased development of all our natural resources, including renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
- Ends the Bailouts and Reforms the Financial System
Instead of nationalizing our financial system and heaping trillions of dollars of debt on future generations, Republicans want to protect taxpayers and provide a transparent recovery process that does not favor those that have made unsound business decisions. We will ensure that this financial crisis can never occur again.
- Keeps the Cost of Living Low
Instead of returning to double digit levels of inflation and the failed economic policies of the 1970s, Republicans support maintaining the cost of living after witnessing the booms and busts triggered by loose monetary policy.
Minority Leader John Boehner introduced the plan, directly accusing the president's plan of being "anti-stimulus" and arguing that the GOP plan will "return fiscal sanity" to Washington. Even the mainstream media found it difficult to ignore the Republicans' dramatically different approach to the budget, taxes, and health care. The complete alternative budget itself will be unveiled next week by Rep.Paul Ryan. As Politico reported:
"It's the old ‘I want to see it in writing,'" said a top House Republican official. "They're going to see it in writing."
Another official said: "We need to hold something up and say, ‘Here are our charts. Here are our graphs. It's real.'"
Meanwhile, although not directly tied to the House GOP plan, John McCain took shots Thursday at the president's plan during a speech at the Heritage Foundation. ABC News reported:
"We must respect the principle that solutions must be durable. If we fall prey to the siren song of short-run expediency, we will spend money in ways that we will just have to reverse in the future," McCain is expected to say according to remarks prepared for delivery. "Sadly, I believe that the president's budget is a leading example of this problem. President Obama is sticking five percent of Americans with the bill for a massive expansion of government. As budget policy, this is risky business and bad economics, and it is premised on a misguided approach to fairness that will not stand the test of time."
In short, the gloves are coming off. Republicans are done excusing the Democratic excesses as violating the president's "real" objectives. They are going directly after the Obama budget. While Obama is trying to clamp down on opposition within his own ranks from nervous Red state Democrats, the newly aggressive Republican moves suggest that Republicans see an opening.
In the furor over bailouts and the growing public concern over huge spending increases and a looming deficit, Republicans are aiming not to win the budget battle, but to re-establish the differentiation between the parties. Having lost their image of fiscal sobriety during the Bush years, Republicans now are struggling to re-establish their brand. At the very least they are offering a choice: free market health care vs. government-run, nationalized care; bailouts vs. getting failing companies off the dole; and higher vs. lower taxes. Without the necessity of rounding up votes they have the luxury of painting the stark differences in political philosophy between the two parties.
Will it "work"? Well, it is not going to pass, of course. But that is not its aim. In a sense the Republican budget plan "works" by existing, by reminding voters that massive taxing and spending is not the only alternative. Provided the Republicans oppose the Obama budget en masse (which is highly likely), they will be positioned to argue in the years ahead, and most clearly in 2010, that Obama "owns" the budget and our fiscal outlook.
If it turns out that voters don't like a $3.6 trillion budget, a massive hike in the debt, and higher taxes, Republicans will be there, waiting to offer themselves as a brake against Obama's ultra-liberal agenda. So if not a road to recovery for the country, the document unveiled Thursday is in fact the first step on the Republicans' political road to recovery. It is a long journey, but at least it has begun.