Reihan Salam has an interesting column in Forbes wondering if Mark Sanford represents the return of Goldwaterism on the American right:
When Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964, conservatism was a rigorous and demanding creed. Rather than promise tax cuts, Goldwater insisted on balanced budgets and sound money. After promising to get rid of any number of New Deal social programs, and after pledging to privatize the Tennessee Value Authority and other cherished infrastructure projects, Goldwater didn’t promise anything material in return. No manna would fall from the sky in Goldwater’s America. He simply argued that shrinking the federal government and reducing its power would encourage self-reliance, and that self-reliance would encourage the virtues of thrift and industry.
It is easy to see why the supply-siders later derided Goldwater’s old-fashioned worldview as “root-canal economics,” as it promised a lot more pain, at least in the short term. But Goldwaterism had the virtue of coherence and consistency.
It also will soon acquire the virtue of being necessary. There was a brief window when a viable economic conservatism could cut high marginal tax rates while leaving the federal government’s spending commitments largely intact, although even during the Reagan years bigger spending cuts could have prevented tax increases later. But there simply isn’t as big a revenue reflow effect from cutting a 35 percent or even 39.6 percent tax rate as there is from cutting tax rates that exceed 50 percent. And the federal government is in a more precarious financial position than it was in the 1980s, in no small part because both parties have failed to control spending.
Spending cuts — especially anything that reduces entitlements for the middle class and wealthy — aren’t any more popular than they were when Goldwater was running in 1964. But they are currently justified by more than fidelity to the Constitution. Sanford’s political creed isn’t sunny and it remains to be seen if it can be sold to the electorate. Nevertheless, the days of tax cuts without spending cuts are over. In the absence of Sanford’s Goldwaterism, Republicans aren’t going to have much to say about fiscal policy.
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