The collapse of negotiations around $4 trillion in debt reduction and House Speaker John Boehner’s preference to scale the scope of discussion back to $2 trillion in hopes that will somehow generate a deal with no tax increases isn’t surprising. But it is, again, a useful reminder of where the American conservative movement is at. There’s been a fair amount of discussion recently about why it is that the GOP is so uncompromising in pursuit of its ideological goals, much of it very enlightening. What’s strange, though, is how narrowly focused those goals are.
The nature of legislative compromise, after all, is that you accommodate someone else’s objectives in order to obtain your objectives. A movement that actually believed that reducing federal spending was extremely important would, it seems to me, be quite willing to make concessions in order to obtain large quantities of spending cuts. Viewed in that light, it’s not obvious to me that backing away from a $4 trillion deal primarily composed of spending cuts constitutes a “more conservative” option than saying yes. You’re seeing that very little has changed in practice from the Bush years, when the GOP agenda consisted of aggressive tax cutting made palatable by refusing to pair the cuts with spending reductions. Now, ostensibly, cutting spending is the order of the day. But the bargaining strategy is entirely built around a tax-focused goal rather than a spending-focused one.