Now in Power, Some Conservatives Say 'Take It Slow' on Spending Cuts

Dialing back the election rhetoric

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Republicans swept back into power this Tuesday partly by promising spending cuts and an end to big government. Make no mistake: a large number of right-leaning politicians and pundits are all set to get to work, finding programs to slash like there's no tomorrow. There's also a vocal minority, however, who are already urging caution, or qualifying the rhetoric. The overall goal is good, they say, but for both political and practical reasons we may want to go slowly, and maintain a sense of other priorities. Here's what the "take it slow" advocates are saying.

  • 'Slow the Galloping Horses to a Trot,' advises Ari Fleischer in The Wall Street Journal. "Big government was built over decades; it can't be dismantled in a year, especially when Democrats control the White House." In fact, he adds, "if Republicans push too hard, we may blow our chances to actually reform entitlements and meaningfully roll back the size of government after the 2012 elections."
  • 'Beware of Unrealistic Expectations'  The New York Times' David Brooks pulls together some telling arguments from Republican politicians Lamar Alexander, Jon Kyl, and Eric Cantor, who argue that Republicans can't enact their legislative agenda unilaterally, and that there's a risk of voter backlash. Brooks thinks this sort of "gradualism" might take hold even among the newly-elected "fire-breathing Tea Party-types."
  • It's Not Just About Spending  "Getting the spending under control matters a lot," acknowledges Daniel Henninger at The Wall Street Journal. "John Boehner and Mitch McConnell want to push spending back to the 2008 baseline. It's a good idea. But that alone won't revive the economy." In short: though he's all for spending cuts, his big interest is deregulation.
  • Dialing Back Election Rhetoric Is Just Part of Politics  "Politicians make promises like these because they are big and vivid. But the bigger the goal, the harder it is to reach," explains Steve Chapman. "That's even more true when power is divided between a Democratic president and Senate and a Republican House."
  • Who's Dialing Back?  Victor Davis Hanson, on the other hand, is one of those ready to go full-steam head. "Perhaps a good symbolic start would be to cut back on popular pet programs --agricultural subsidies, for example--whose end the republic will survive," he says, but "Social Security, Medicare and some Defense programs all have to be on the table." This willingness to put even defense spending up for debate is in contrast to Jim Talent's argument at National Review that, "for those who take the Constitution seriously, that national defense is a higher priority than other areas of federal activity. While other parts of the federal budget may be presumptively suspect, spending on the national defense is not." Meanwhile, Conn Caroll at The Heritage Foundation has a whole six-step plan to cut the government down to size ASAP.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.