Having watched the Republican presidential candidates in their debates so far and having read a fair bit of their campaign material on line, I get the distinct feeling that most of them have no clue about fiscal matters. Most also vehemently complain about the Democratic candidates as “Tax & Spenders”, but almost all the Republican candidates are even more irresponsible with the government coffers than the Democrats.

As a RINO, that’s what most upsets me about the Republicans – almost all of them are simply fiscally irresponsible. At least the Democratic candidates are honest enough to say that we’d have to pay for the stuff they’re proposing. Almost all the Republican candidates are saying that they want to spend lots more money, and cut taxes at the same time.   I guess we should call the current Republicans “No Tax & Spenders“.  I think that’s much worse.  Talk about your people who want free stuff!  The Republicans want “free stuff” and they want to get paid to take it.

All the Republican candidates rail against the deficit and the debt. However, on their face, almost all of their proposals will only increase both. I want them to explain how decreasing the amount of money coming into the Treasury decreases the deficit or the debt. We know that the supply-side, Laffer curve arguments they’ve been feeding the country since Reagan don’t work because we now have two periods in the last 40 years where it was tried and it failed nationally (deficit and debt ballooned in 1980’s under Reagan, and 2000’s under G. W. Bush), and take a peek at the state of Kansas right now for a third example at the state level.   Most of the Republican candidates arguments about fixing the deficit and debt amount to saying the following:

I have a lot of bills to pay, so if I take a pay cut, I will finally be able to pay them all off.

I’m all for smaller and smarter government!  I’m all for spending money on only what we need and what the government should be doing!  However, this is no way to achieve these outcomes.  If my credit cards are maxed out, I don’t fix the problem by taking a pay cut.  I fix the problem by spending less and taking a second job to pay them down.

If we are to balance the federal budget and return the national debt to a reasonable and manageable size, the prudent fiscal policy would be to reduce spending while leaving tax revenues the same or actually increasing tax revenues  until we have our fiscal house in order.  Along the way, I’d like to hear how they would reform the tax code in a way that makes the entire process simpler, while actually paying for the government they have.

Starving the beast has only gotten us ballooning debt and deficits.  That’s why Grover Norquist’s tax pledge idiocy has been so detrimental to good fiscal government.  It makes people think they’re starving the beast, whereas what they do is simply feed the debt and deficit.

The prudent, fiscally conservative policy is to pay for what you’ve already spent.  So ALL I want to hear from candidates who say they want to fix the deficit and debt is what they want to cut in spending and nothing about cutting taxes.  I want to hear smart plans for reducing spending, too.  Slash and burn spending cuts (e.g., sequestration) are just as idiotic as starving the beast.  I think government has an important role in making our society work (e.g., defense, education, financial and environmental regulations) and supporting the less fortunate among us. We should be arguing over what we want to pay for or not pay for.  

Once we get spending under control and the deficit and debt wiped out, then we can talk about reducing tax revenues.  I would, however, think that reforming the tax code to make it at least partly rational would help, too.  Structure the tax system so that corporations are not incentivized to go overseas.  Maintain the progressivity of the code.  Make taxation of income and investment returns equivalent.  Eliminate corporate subsidies. Greatly reduce the scope of deductions.  etc., etc., etc.

Fiscal responsibility is now not a Republican priority.  I guess you can call what I’m talking about “the RINO way of achieving fiscal solvency.”  But then, I guess that means it’s a good thing that RINOs aren’t true Republicans anymore.  If we went back to having more RINOs in government (e.g., Abe, Cal, Ike, TR, GHWB), perhaps we could put the country back on a path to fiscal responsibility.