The chaps at The New York Times are eager to report that all is not well with the House Republicans. In "House Republicans Battle Turmoil in Their Ranks" Tom Hulse reports that:
Under pressure to make deeper spending cuts and blindsided by embarrassing floor defeats, House Republican leaders are quickly discovering the limits of control over their ideologically driven and independent-minded new majority.
For the second consecutive day, House Republicans on Wednesday lost a floor vote due to a mini-revolt, this time over a plan to demand a repayment from the United Nations. Earlier in the day, members of the party’s conservative bloc used a closed-door party meeting to push the leadership to go well beyond its plans to trim about $40 billion from domestic spending and foreign aid this year, demanding $100 billion or more.
So? What's not to like? There is a word to describe this situation. It is "democracy."
The elections of 2010 sent 63 new Republicans to the House of Representatives. It's the biggest turnover in a couple of generations. Obviously, it will change the game in Washington. But how? That is what Republicans are discovering as they stumble into the future.
A couple of years ago, after Democrats had won 55 seats in the House over two election cycles, they reckoned it gave them a mandate to crank federal spending up to 24 or 25 percent of GDP. On reflection, it is probably fair to say that they were mistaken. On balance. That's because the vast majority of Americans are worried about jobs and worried about deficits. They see big government as a threat to their livelihood.
Now the Republicans have swept to control of the House. These Republicans represent people who think that "something must be done" about wasteful spending and big deficits. So they are starting on that project. The GOP leaders, not surprisingly, are rather less gung-ho than the freshman class. They remember the Gingrich years and the firestorm they went through when they tried to cut spending with President Clinton in the White House. What we are seeing is the Republicans come to a consensus about just how tough they are going to get on spending.
In any case, all this is penny-ante stuff. The real story is the long-term budget outlook. As this chart from usgovernmentspending.com shows, the real question is health care: Medicare and Medicaid.
Obviously, the growth of Medicare and Medicaid cannot go on like this forever. They run into Herbert Stein's law: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." Somehow, in some way, the growth in government health care spending will stop.
Years from now we may look back on the budget battle of 2011 and see the seeds of the Great Repudiation--of big government.
Or maybe not.