James: I’m not convinced by Risen’s analysis. His main flaw is here:
If anything, the Republicans didn’t lose last year because they grew the size of the government; they lost because they didn’t grow it very effectively. Voters chose Democrats not to cut the deficit but to create new programs to address the needs of the middle and working classes.
This is what I call the “Management Theory of Government”–if you just put better people in charge of running government, the government will run better. Now that Democrats are in charge, supposedly they will come up with better programs that meet the needs of the middle and working class.
But where has history shown this to true? Democrats are going to try to make education more affordable by putting more money into college loans–specifically, by lowering the interest rates. But as any student of Econ 101 will tell you, when the government subsidizes something, that something becomes more expensive. How about health care? Just about everything the Democrats have ever done on health care has made it more expensive too.
The problem isn’t one of managment, but one of government. Government, by its nature, makes things less affordable.
Therein lies the flaw in Risen’s thinking. The Democrats will spend more on education and health care, thereby doing nothing to reduce the deficit, if not make it worse. Thus, they won’t be able to go to the public and say they worked to reduce the deficit. But what they do on education and health care will make those even more expensive, thereby causing them to lose credibility on those issues too.
So, by going down the path Risen is suggesting–grow government, don’t worry about the deficit–the Democrats will wind up in even worse shape than if they tried to do something about the deficit.