March 18, 2005

Republicans and Asphalt

The WSJ Ed Page wonders what the connection is.

What is it about freshly laid asphalt that causes Republicans to abandon their economic principles? In promoting the bill, Messrs. Hastert and Young described this higher federal spending as an economic boon that will create some "47,500 jobs" for every $1 billion spent. But by that logic, why not spend $1 trillion on highways? They seem to have forgotten that the money has to come from somewhere, which means it will be taken from the more productive private sector in the form of higher taxes now, or down the road (painful pun intended).

Republicans also aren't using their majorities to rework transportation spending to fit their federalist principles. GOP highway bills are just as bad as those Democrats used to pass, with their top-down, feds-know-best direction. States and localities would know better how to spend the money by working with private companies on toll roads and private-public partnerships to ease congestion. But of course that would reduce the political leverage of individual Members doling out the cash.

Republicans are slowly figuring out the damage that these spending binges are doing to their fiscal image, which is why their new budget resolution claims to be tough. But a budget outline means nothing if actual spending continues to increase. It's true that the highway boondoggle is bipartisan, but as the party in charge Republicans will get the blame if all of this spending forces them to raise taxes.

The greatest danger for the inchoate GOP majority is for their legislators to abandon principles. They enjoy demographic momentum, a surfeit of good ideas, and what seems to be some good trends (or lucky breaks if you're on the other side) from history.

Good for the President for trying to keep them in check. We have had some great comments below on the danger of losing the evangelical vote, it would be no better to chase away the fiscal conservatives, most of whom are watching a Republican-controlled Congress very nervously.

UPDATE: Larry Kudlow piles on!

Members of the U.S. Senate are reneging on their promise to cut wasteful and unnecessary federal budget spending. And I'm talking Republicans here.

Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is whittling down the farm subsidy cuts, which are corporate welfare and agriculture welfare queens. Minnesota Senator Norman Coleman is trying to stop more corporate welfare cuts, by preserving community development block grants. Oregon Senator Gordon Smith is preventing Medicaid cuts, which represent wasteful overspending, not real health services. This makes my blood boil.

Supply-side tax cuts have done their job by growing the economy and throwing off 10 percent increases in tax collections. But the Republican Senate is not doing its job to hold back the budget, which is still growing at 7 percent.

You know what? Taxpayer money should be protected, not wasted. Republicans are supposed to be the fiscal conservatives.

Amen brother Larry.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at March 18, 2005 10:14 AM

I have come to believe that anything that makes the tax code more complicated, even if it is a tax cut or a tax break is a bad thing. Simplification is the only thing that will really solve the problems. 47,500 jobs per $1 billion? Those are $21,000 jobs, which ones are those? If even the marketing part of the math is bad you know you are in touble.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at March 18, 2005 11:52 AM

The numbers work, Silence. The Feds are simply ignoring the tax liability of those 47.5K jobs per billion, since they figure they'll get all those dollars back anyway. That brings those $21K per year jobs closer to $40K.

Posted by: johngalt at March 18, 2005 3:14 PM

As to the subject at hand, this is more evidence that Democrats and Republicans are, at least in the realm of spending the taxpayer's money, "two wings of the same bird-of-prey."

The only solution I can see is to take away their (congress's) power to write checks. Yeah... right.

Posted by: johngalt at March 19, 2005 3:18 PM

I am always hesitant to equate the two parties when I have such a strong preference for one over the other. I tell people that the Republicans promise more liberty and frequently fail; the Democrats promise less liberty and usually succeed.

The issue here is not Dem vs. GOP but incumbents vs. the rest of us. Looking at spending and campaign finance reform, this seems to become a better way to divide the different players and their different incentives.

Posted by: jk at March 19, 2005 7:09 PM | What do you think? [4]