The budget deal announced on Monday has predictably set off howls among Republicans because it did not include spending cuts to offset the proposed spending increases. But it is time for conservatives to understand there is no political will to significantly cut spending in the absence of an overall bipartisan deal.
It has long been a conservative article of faith that it is possible to reduce government spending on domestic programs — including entitlements — without also reducing military spending or raising taxes. That belief is the centerpiece of the right’s fiscal bible, former speaker Paul D. Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future.” First introduced in 2008, the Roadmap has gone through many iterations, but it has always retained these three core elements. Republicans have thus had more than a decade to persuade voters to adopt this. They have failed miserably.
A version of the Roadmap for America’s Future was adopted after the tea party-infused Republican takeover of the House in 2010. Nothing serious was done to implement it. It was in the background as Republicans and President Barack Obama battled over reducing the deficit in 2011. Before then, the best they could come up with had been the Simpson-Bowles grand bargain that would have raised taxes and cut spending to bring the budget closer to balance. But this deal was shot down by each party’s base, as Republicans led by Ryan opposed tax increases and progressives opposed entitlement cuts.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.