I’m just not so sure. Paul Krugman correctly challenges the GOP’s interest in or concern over reducing the deficit. The larger the government deficit, the better. (See T Franks’ Wrecking Crew.)
But does it follow that the GOP is only concerned with the dissolution of the welfare state?
So what’s it all about? The answer, of course, is that the GOP never cared about the deficit — not a bit. It has always been nothing but a club with which to beat down opposition to an ideological goal, namely the dissolution of the welfare state. They’re not interested, at all, in a genuine deficit-reduction deal if it does not serve that goal.
To be sure, there are some in this club who have this goal. But my fear is that the goal of “the base” is far more sinister: not welfare alone, but res publica as a whole. What is phony is therefore not only their mock concern over deficits, but their mock concern over republican values and institutions taken together: the Republic.
Remember: these folks idolize the anti-Federalists, opponents not only of the Federalists, but of the Constitution. And, here, they are on fairly solid ground. The anti-Federalists believed in democracy, not “common wealth.” The republicans, by contrast, feared that the anti-Federalists (and democrats) would sacrifice shared public interests to private self-interest.
Which is among the reasons why both the original anti-Federalists and their modern day followers have so much trouble wrapping their heads around the preamble to the Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Our modern day anti-republicans (the GOP) would like to interpret these words as though written by Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, or Friedrich von Hayek.
In fact, they were written in response to Shays’ Rebellion, the inability of the Federal government to raise an army, mint a currency, pay its debts (domestic or foreign), and with southern landowners (hardly the friends of Union) fearful that their “property” might at any moment rebel. In other words, they forget what the early anti-Federalists could never forget: that this document, this Constitution, was written against them.
Yes. Government can secure the Blessings of Liberty (and not simply by keeping its hands off). Yes. Government can promote general Welfare (and not simply by letting all do as they please within the limits of the law). And, yes. Governments can insure domestic Tranquility (and not simply by opening and protecting markets).
This Constitution was activist, interventionist, and centralist; it meant to put down men like Shays. It was not the friend of men like Patrick Henry or Tom Paine, solid democrats both (and opponents of res publica).
So, when I hear the GOP inveighing against the Federal Government spending and against raising taxes, what comes to my mind is not a club eager to destroy the welfare state. What comes to my mind is that tradition in American politics that has never been happy with the US Constitution and would just as soon be done with all republican institutions and values.