Is David Cameron Too "Progressivist" For The GOP?

by Jonathan Chait | October 22, 2010

Matthew Yglesias points to the massive spending cuts in the U.K. budget as a reason conservatives should support majority rule:

I do hope that American conservatives will look at the UK and recognize that even though they may have enjoyed the filibuster in 2009-2010, the extremely cumbersome nature of the American political process will make it forever impossible to enact these kind of sweeping cuts in the United States.
From where I sit, the system they have in the UK where you can simply sweep opposition objections aside is actually the right way to do bipartisanship. Call it bipartisanship by alternation. When Labour wins the election, Labour has the chance to implement a bold agenda creating and expanding programs in a way that they think will make Britain a better place to live. Then when the Tories come in, they’re able to be brutal in their efforts to pare back or eliminate things that they think aren’t working. Over the long term, you get a trajectory where programs survive if and only if they’re so widely regarded as successful that no mainstream party would dare abolish them.

But is it really the case that the British Tory budget is something American conservatives want? Leave aside the fact that it preserves a system of true socialized medicine -- not just single-payer, which means government paying for private health care but actual doctors and hospitals working for the government. The Tories impose a lot of pain upon the rich:

But eight million higher earners will be hit hardest through higher taxes and the loss both of access to public services valued at more than £500 every year and welfare payments. ...
Once other changes to the tax and benefit system are included, the wealthiest group loses more than five per cent of annual earnings over the next four years. The poorest group loses between three and four per cent. Overall, the average household loses about four per cent. ...
He defended his decision to target high earners by saying: “A fair government makes sure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden.”

And sure enough, establishment Republican voices like the Wall Street Journal editorial page are warning that Cameron's radical government shrinking budget is an unacceptable model because it doesn't have that good old voodoo"

But if a government is going to move people from welfare to work, it's also going to have to offer a pro-growth agenda that permits businesses to create jobs. And here is where Mr. Cameron's austerity blueprint falls short. Mr. Osborne this week has promised that he would soon introduce the "maximum sustainable" tax on banks, calling into question the future attractiveness of London as a global financial capital. The government had already announced a 2.5-percentage-point rise in the VAT, to 20%, an increase in capital gains tax to 28% from 18%, and it has no plans to bring the top marginal income tax rate down from its current 50%.
Nor does it help for the government to continue to fund fashionable environmental boondoggles, such as £1 billion "commercial scale carbon capture and storage demonstration project," or the £200 million it means to spend for wind-power generation.
If Mr. Cameron's government wants economic growth, it will have to move in the opposite direction, especially on taxes; a diet of budget cuts alone won't do it.

It's true that you can find Republicans willing to defend reductions in spending for upper-income beneficiaries. But no tax hikes whatsoever, and nothing that really bites into the income of the very rich (who, after all, barely notice Social Security.)

In general, Yglesias is correct that Republicans will never get anything remotely resembling policies they want without eliminating the routine filibuster. But the Tory budget is not an example of the sort of policies they'd like to enact. They don't want shared sacrifice or even a reduction in government per se. They want a reduction in redistribution from the rich to the non-rich.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/78595/david-cameron-too-progressivist-the-gop