So they piously speak of dealing with the deficit with their $61 billion in proposed cuts (or even the $100 billion Tea Party standard) while trying to repeal President Obama's healthcare reform law, a move that would add more than $200 billion to the deficit over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And all of those numbers are dwarfed by the $4 trillion hole they would blow over 10 years if they successfully managed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. [See a slide show of 10 looming budget and spending fights between Obama and the Congress.]
And they're not focused, campaign rhetoric aside, on jobs. A recent Goldman Sachs report estimated that the $61 billion in spending cuts that the House GOP passed would reduce economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points. This would not help spur job growth. Moody's analyst Mark Zandi (who has advised both parties) weighed in last week with an estimate that the Republican spending cuts "would mean some 400,000 fewer jobs created by the end of 2011 and 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012." And last Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke put that number at "a couple of hundred thousand jobs," adding, "It's not trivial." [See editorial cartoons about the economy.]
In other words, the Republicans' spending cuts legislation is the very definition of, to borrow their phrase, a job-killing bill. And the Tea Party gang doesn't think it goes far enough. Is the GOP really willing to sacrifice economic growth at the altar of their cutting obsession? Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the George W. Bush budget director-turned-spending hawk, was asked on NPR whether budget cuts are worth it if they cost a lot of jobs. "The answer is yes," he said.
This view bespeaks the kind of market fundamentalism the Tea Party GOP has embraced. It involves a blind faith in the free market: cut taxes, gut regulations, cut spending, gut labor unions. The market is always right. And if that means the loss of a few hundred thousand jobs, then, in the instantly immortal words of House Speaker John Boehner, "So be it."
But the GOP has gotten so lost in its own philosophy that they have made the mistake of believing their own rhetoric about the United States being ideologically conservative. It is surely true that the electorate prefers a government that is in some senses limited; but so too do they want the free market limited, its rough edges softened. [See editorial cartoons about the GOP.]
It may be, in Governor Walker's words, their moment. But overreaching conservatives will learn that the more tightly they embrace it, the more quickly it will pass. In self-consciously trying to change history, they will become it.