Public Nuisances

The Long War and the Budget

By From the October 2011 issue

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WASHINGTON -- We are engaged in a long war -- actually two long wars. The first and most commonly accepted of our wars is the long war against Islamofascists. It is not a war against vast armies. Comparatively speaking, it is just a war against a handful of thugs, but they want to strike at our heart, wherever we are ill-prepared, and if they can they will cause incalculable destruction. This we discovered on September 11, 2001. We are on the hem of wiping al Qaeda out, but there are other thugs waiting. We must be vigilant against them. It will be a long war.

The second long war is at home on budgetary matters. That both the left and the right have been in a fury about an early battle in that war, the debtceiling battle, suggests just how long that war will be. We have little consensus on this war. Yet a war it is, and a very long war I fear it will be. It is a war to balance the budget, putting the economy on a sustainable course, and ensuring growth and jobs. It is a war to get the country back to a federal budget that accounts for 20 percent of GDP rather than the 25 percent of GDP that President Barack has snatched from us while we were not looking.

Today the left is grumbling that the Congress agreed to budget cuts of nearly $900 billion over the next ten years but with no new taxes or as they delicately put it, no new “revenue enhancements.” As Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, exclaimed, “It’s a surrender to Republican extortion.” He elaborated, “It’s one thing to say ‘we want this. We don’t want that as part of negotiations.’ It’s another to say ‘we will destroy the country and the economy if you don’t do what we want.’” My response is, just get government spending back to where it was before the Obama revels. Tax increases kill job growth, are unfair to those whom the left targets to pay them, and give us a false sense that we can continue on this perilous path to ever-larger government.

The federal budget has accounted for roughly 20 percent of GDP in recent years. When President Obama came to power he increased that to just shy of 25 percent of GDP, a peacetime record. In other words, he increased government’s size in our economy to 25 percent of GDP and he wants to keep it there at that historic level forever, or until he can grow it larger. It will mean slower economic growth, but he rather likes that too. The answer to Obama and the grumbling left is “give us the 5 percent of the economy that you took form us.” I think that is reasonable. That is what we want.

Unfortunately, the Tea Party is unhappy. It is the most successful political development in decades. It removed “revenue enhancements” from the recent Washington agenda, at least temporarily. As recently as July 28 President Obama was insisting that tax increases had to be part of the debt-ceiling deal. He lost. The Tea Partiers focused the agreement on spending cuts but many do not think they got enough cuts.

To be sure, they did not get enough cuts in the debt-ceiling battle, but they are in a strong position to get them in the battles ahead. They must not be distracted. They must not pack it in and go home. A Tea Partier by the name of Ellen Gilmore told the Wall Street Journal, “People are saying, ‘These tea partiers, aren’t they wonderful, they are changing the conversation.’ Well, we got absolutely squat—except for the conversation.” Actually, the Tea Party is leading us toward a tipping point, as Sean Hannity and Jeffrey Lord recently pointed out. And the tipping is to the right and it can stay there for years to come if the Tea Party and conservatives play their cards right.

We now are heading for the small battles to ensure that the debit-ceiling agreement is carried out properly. Then there is the great battle of the 2012 elections and the retirement of Barack Obama. Finally there will be other battles after 2012. The Tea Party is essential to winning these battles. It must not give up. It must stay the course. We are in a long war, but with the Tea Party’s assistance it is winnable. The fight has just begun.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.