The political savvy Phil notes below is also a direct result of the Republicans’ too clevery by four-fifths strategy of focusing their spending critique on earmarks and pork. Almost all of John McCain’s credibility as an anti-spending politician, for example, came from his stand against earmarks. Earmarks are annoying, but they are not the spending that is bankrupting our entitlements programs or pushing us toward a European-style welfare state.
Republicans are right to point to the wasteful spending in the stimulus package and to highlight the extent to which this is just a giveway to various Democratic constituencies. But by focusing only on the waste, they give the Democrats the easy out of stripping the most egregious projects from the bill. The stimulus package needs to be opposed because it is bad economics; because the country cannot afford it; because the real stimulus portions are tiny; because the big increases in the deficit happen in the future, not now. In short, Republicans need to stop playing around and become a party of fiscal reality again.