Yesterday's unveiling of the House Republican Budget did not go very well, to say the least; now it seems the fallout from the dud proposal has led to some conflict among the Republican leadership. The media's willingness to criticize the plan startled me -- and the Republican leadership, clearly -- given how consistently politicians can get away with saying any old thing and waving around a document to show it off. For an example, see the Republican alternative stimulus, which was attributed to the economic ideas of Obama Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer without challenge from the press despite Romer's personal rebuttals of the economics underlying the plan. My first thought when I saw the GOP's unforced error -- and it was unforced, if waiting until next week would have led them to have real numbers, they could have survived three days-- was, "This is what the Democrats used to do all the time!"
Josh Marshall will often comment that the culture of Washington institutions is still in tune with conservative and Republican politics despite the new Democratic administration, and there is merit in that argument. But yesterday's events show that the balance is starting to shift away from that orientation. Suddenly, just repeating "tax cuts" isn't enough to convince someone of your fiscal seriousness -- although we'll see how long that lasts. A remaining challenge for the GOP is coming up with any convincing specifics at all -- beyond ideological problems that put them in something of a fiscal straight jacket, they simply don't have the staff it takes to put together a serious budget proposal, compared to the majority side of the Budget Committee or the resources of the OMB.
I'll have a piece coming out on the GOP plan on Monday, but future House members, heed this wisdom: if you're going to criticize someone's budget for having huge deficit projections, you probably should know what your alternative budget's deficit projections are.
-- Tim Fernholz
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