One tiny part of me hoped that after the GOP spending binge of the Bush years, and the alleged Tea Party commitment to turn the page on growing government, the Republicans, like the Tories in Britain, would run on a clear platform of massive spending cuts to reassure the markets of long term fiscal stability. Everyone knows where the money is: Medicare, Social Security, defense. Discretionary spending is largely irrelevant; as is pork - although, of course, it would be a good thing to examine the former very closely for savings and cut down on the explosion of earmarks in recent years.

So drum-roll please for the spending cuts:

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt. We will also establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending from this point forward. We will launch a sustained effort to stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade.

By cutting Congress’ budget, imposing a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees, and reviewing every current government program to eliminate wasteful and duplicative programs, we can curb Washington’s irresponsible spending habits and reduce the size of government, while still fulfilling our necessary obligations.

This is a joke. The stimulus is already disappearing; the bailout of the banks may even make a profit. More importantly, without tackling entitlements, none of this matters a jot. And a good rule of thumb is that when you hear politicians saying they are going to "eliminate wasteful and duplicative programs", you know they are bullshitting you on fiscal responsibility. I echo the memorable words of Nick Gillespie this morning:

Dr. Newt Gingrich, who is to the Republicans what Dr. X is to Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime, is on the recent record as holding Medicare and Social Security spending even holier than the Ground Zero Burlington Coat Factory (It's not just coats!). 

Taxes? They will rescind the sunsetting of the Bush tax cuts (a sunset that was passed by Republicans), including those for people earning over $250,000 a year, adding something like $700 billion to the long term debt, starting now. So the only place left to look is defense. There is nothing there - except a plan to retain Gitmo, exempt the national security state from any cuts at all, maintain the Afghanistan  and Iraq wars (I assume, because they go unmentioned), add new spending for missile defense, and on and on.

Given the gravity of the debt crisis, this is the most fiscally irresponsible document ever offered by the GOP. It is to the far right of Reagan, who raised taxes and eventually cut defense, and helped reform social security to ensure its longterm viability. It is an act of vandalism against the fiscal balance of the US, and in this global economic climate, a recipe for a double-dip recession and default. It is the opposite of responsible conservatism.

(Photo:Saul Loeb/Getty.)

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