Republicans aren’t proposing spending cut details

One of the interesting empirical take-aways of ‘fiscal cliff 2012’ is that the Republicans aren’t proposing any details regarding cuts to social spending. Which is weird because they claim to advocate spending cuts. Actually, they do more than advocate spending cuts. They make wild claims to knowledge: about the US being the next Greece, government spending being evil “redistribution,” government power being the road to serfdom, etc.

So one would think they could immediately come up with any number of reforms to the government budget. And one would think they would aggressively push these spending cuts on President Obama, the media, the country.

It hasn’t, in fact, worked out that way. Instead, the Republicans are mum, for some reason trying to make Obama lay out his desired spending cuts first. Apparently, the Republicans think it is best if, on their own pet issue of government spending, which they’ve been pounding home since Obama took office, they let the President set the initial terms of the debate.

If you are Tea Party, or even conservative movement, you have to be wondering what’s going on. This is another example of the Republican party choosing not to publicly express core conservative movement principles — in this case, perhaps the core principle — for fear of alienating national audiences. If you are Tea Party or conservative movement, you have to wonder what the future is if your cherished ideals can’t be communicated nationally. A few Bachmanns here and there. But no real national credibility for your ideas.

Chait has a take that like usual makes sense (link):

“Where are the president’s spending cuts?” asks John Boehner. With Republicans coming to grips with their inability to stop taxes on the rich from rising, the center of the debate has turned to the expenditure side. In the short run, the two parties have run into an absurd standoff, where Republicans demand that President Obama produce an offer of higher spending cuts, and Obama replies that Republicans should say what spending cuts they want, and Republicans insist that Obama should try to guess what kind of spending cuts they would like.

Reporters are presenting this as a kind of negotiating problem, based on each side’s desire for the other to stick its neck out first. But it actually reflects a much more fundamental problem than that. Republicans think government spending is huge, but they can’t really identify ways they want to solve that problem, because government spending is not really huge. That is to say, on top of an ideological gulf between the two parties, we have an epistemological gulf. The Republican understanding of government spending is based on hazy, abstract notions that don’t match reality and can’t be translated into a workable program.”

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