Wednesday, 21 January 2004

What's a fiscal conservative to do?

Juan Non-Volokh complains that fiscal conservatives have nowhere to turn:

Last night’s State of the Union included the usual laundry list of costly new proposals, further cementing President Bush’s record as a profligate spender. Even with increased economic growth, pursuing these initiatives will further delay deficit reduction. Alas, fiscal conservatives don’t have anywhere else to turn, according to this study by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. To the contrary, based on their campaign platforms, NTUF found that every one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination would increase spending even more than it has grown under President Bush.

But the question should not be “what Bush will spend” vs. “what Democratic candidate D says he will spend“. The question should be “what Bush will spend” vs. “what Democratic candidate D will spend“. Any Democrat in the White House would have a powerful brake on his profligate spending plans that President Bush does not, viz. a Republican Congress. Andrew Sullivan has realized this, even if he can’t bring himself to support any of the Democratic candidates because of such important matters as endorsements by obnoxious jerks.

Of course, the worst federal spending (being not just wasteful but downright counter-productive), viz. farm subsidies, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But aside from farm subsidies, a Democratic president would have a hard time finding enough common ground with a Republican Congress to pass any major new spending initiatives. And with the House gerrymandered into Repblican hands for the forseeable future, there’s not much danger of a Democratic Congress coming around and allowing a Democratic president to have his way with the Treasury.