Chait’s Small Government Challenge: Kudlow Fails Miserably

Via Mark Thoma comes a challenge to the small government conservatives issued by Jonathan Chait:

Republicans, on the other hand, pretty much never change. They’re like a Terminator machine (and unlike the governor who played the Terminator and who has dramatically recast his ideology). Crush them in a machine press, or freeze them and blow them into tiny pieces, and they’ll just regroup and keep lurching forward, cutting taxes for the rich and jacking up defense spending. Ever wonder why that is? It’s because conservatives have an apparatus in place to interpret every election. If Republicans win, it’s because they were conservative. If they lose, it’s because they weren’t. No matter what the facts may be, they will always conclude that the answer is to run further to the right. But exactly how have Republicans overspent? The largest spending increases under Bush, by far, have come in defense and homeland security, which conservatives support. The next biggest item is the Medicare bill. Horribly designed though it was, you can’t say it was unpopular. Poll results indicate that about 90% of the public support adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare. McCain blamed the GOP loss on “the massive programs such as Medicare prescription drug program … our failure to address their priorities as opposed to our own, and there was obviously a reaction to it.” But the Medicare bill was the public’s priority. If Republicans really want to recommit to smaller government, they can run on a simple platform of rolling back the Bush spending hikes. Go ahead, Republicans, I dare you: Promise to slash the Pentagon, eliminate homeland security and take away everybody’s Medicare drug coverage. Of course, they won’t really do that. What they’ll do is promise unspecified spending cuts that they’ll never carry out, along with lots of specified tax cuts that they will carry out. Conservatives are in a perpetual vice, squeezed between their vision for the country and the voters’ vision for the country. They’ll never reduce government to the size they’d like, but they’re too fanatical to admit that they can’t.

While Chait thinks few conservatives will have the courage to take his challenge, we can only hope someone on the right will rise to the occasion. So does Lawrence Kudlow rise to the challenge:

The single-best thing the lame-duck GOP Congress can do is vote in a spending-limitation bill with balanced-budget targets for the next couple of years. This would be a spending-cap pay-as-you-go, which means that any increased spending must be offset by lower spending in other parts of the budget. Not higher taxes. Reduced spending. This policy action would send a clear message to disaffected Republicans and independents (think Ross Perot voters) that the GOP is moving to regain the high ground on limited government and budgetary restraint. The era of big-government conservatism must come to an end. And right now. In the new Congress next year, Democrats will push a revenue paygo. This means any new spending initiatives could be financed through higher taxes. And Democrats want to spend. Just take a look at their wish list: student loan subsidies, a major expansion of No Child Left Behind, more money to fill so-called “doughnut hole” (Medicare Part D) prescription-drug assistance, and an expansion of health care for the uninsured on the way to universal health coverage. We could be talking hundreds of billions of dollars of budget increases that under a revenue paygo system would require higher tax rates.

While Kudlow babbles on – he does not provide a single example of where he would cut spending. Now – all he does is to repeat his nonsense about revenue paygo v. spending paygo. Maybe he’s not aware of how large the current fiscal gap is but to suggest it is the Democrats who want more spending is a lie. The Democrats would to cut the special interest goodies passed out by the Hastert led Congress of corruption. They would also find the funds to fill that Medicare Part D doughnut hole by allowing for Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma – hopefully providing more benefits to patients with less long-run cost to the Treasury.

You know for all the time Kudlow spends dishonestly bashing Democrats – you’d think he’d find just one place where he’d advocate specific cuts to government spending. Kudlow once again makes a clown out of himself – and seems to confirm Chait’s cynicism.