Harsh reactions came from conservative bloggers this week over David Brooks' claim that the GOP is no longer a “normal party.”
Brooks, a conservative columnist for The New York Times, argued, in his July 4 column, "The Mother of All No Brainers," that Republicans in Congress should accept a debt ceiling deal offered by Democrats. While praising Republicans for being “tough negotiators” by getting Democrats to agree to tie budgets cuts to a debt ceiling deal, he criticizes them for not taking a current deal offered by Democrats.
Democrats, says Brooks, “have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.”
The revenue increases would not come from raising tax rates, another concession the Democrats have made. Rather, “Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary,” the columnist says.
Since Republicans have been unwilling to take this deal, Brooks says “the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party.”
“It has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative,” he contends.
Furthermore, the members of this protest “do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities,” “have no sense of moral decency,” and “have no economic theory worthy of the name,” argues Brooks.
At RedState.com, Erick Erickson says that Brooks is getting “played” by the Democrats because there really is no deal on the table.
“This $4 trillion deal with entitlement reform does not actually exist. They may be saying that. David Brooks may be getting sweet nothings whispered in his ear by the White House. But there is no deal. This has become a familiar tactic by the Democrats in the past year when it comes to cutting the budget. We saw it with the continuing resolutions. We saw it with the Christmas 2010 tax extension deals. We’re seeing it again. They claim there is an offer made, a deal on the table, and recalcitrant Republicans blocking the way.”
Philip Giraldi, writing for The American Conservative, was unconvinced by Brooks' appeal to “scholars and intellectual authorities.”
“But Brooks appears to be bothered most by the fact that the Tea Partiers are so common. How dare they not pay attention to 'scholars and intellectual authorities,' which undoubtedly includes David Brooks himself. Brooks seems unaware that it is precisely folks like him and his scholarly buddies who have gotten the rest of us in a mess that appears to have no exit door.”
Also disagreeing with Brooks, Guy Benson at Townhall.com argues that the NY Times columnist is wrong about Republicans’ willingness to compromise.
“Did Mr. Brooks sleep through the aforementioned tax deal in December? Did April's Continuing Resolution accord slip his mind as he penned this column? In each of these high-profile cases, Republicans helped craft and pass profoundly imperfect compromises, angering many in their base, in order to keep the government running and avert all-out partisan warfare. Some of us defended both actions as frustrating, but necessary, nods to divided government.”
J. E. Dyer, meanwhile, believes that Brooks fails to distinguish between cutting Medicare – the Democrats’ position – and reforming Medicare – the Republican's position.
“The Democrats don’t want to reform Medicare. They’re just willing to cut it. And right off the bat, that’s not a 'compromise.' A compromise involves making a concession to the other side – but the Republicans haven’t asked for this. They propose to reform Medicare, not simply make cuts to it. Mere cuts to the program, without reform, are, precisely, a recipe for denying care to seniors. There is no Republican proposal to do this. This is a Democratic proposal.”
Also at Hotair.com, Ed Morrissey says that Brooks should have blamed the Democrats for our current levels of national debt.
“Well, let’s back the train up the tracks just a little bit here,” he wrote. “The incoming Republicans who now resist tax hikes weren’t the ones spending the money in the first place. The Democrats in Congress ran deficit spending to absurd new heights over the last four years, and some of the Republicans now in Congress were around for the relatively smaller debt increase from 2001-2006.”
Brooks does have some defenders among conservative bloggers, however.
Jazz Shaw took exception to Morrisey's claims.
“The first item which Brooks gets right and where I believe my friend Ed [Morrissey] misses the point is that there is a very significant and important difference between money you borrow and money you decide not to spend. When the government actually borrows money – issuing paper in exchange for it – it absolutely carries with it a definition of a legal obligation (or a “sacred pledge” if you prefer) to repay it, along with a previously agreed upon amount of interest and/or other fees for borrowing the funds.”
Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis agrees with Brooks that doing away with tax deductions is good economic policy to begin with.
“The most absurd part about this to me is that we aren’t even really talking about tax increases here, we’re talking about closing tax loopholes and ending subsidies to preferred industries disguised as tax deductions, credits, or changes in depreciation schedules,” he said.
“These tax subsidies distort the economy as assuredly as government subsidies to preferred industries do because they involve using the tax code to pick winners and losers, and usually the winners end up being the industries that have been most successful at influencing the tax committees in the House and Senate (coincidentally, I’m sure). Ending these subsidies should be at the top of the GOP list as much as cutting spending is, and doing so would not involve making a single change to tax rates for either individuals or corporations.”
Sharing Brooks’ concern that Republican intransigence will lead to a default on our national debt, Megan McCardle, says in The Atlantic, “I am getting the same sinking feeling that Brooks is having – that there is a sizeable faction on the right, and worse, in the GOP caucus, that is willing to default rather than make any deal at all.”
In an interview with The Daily Caller, a conservative website, Brooks responded to some of the criticism he received, saying, “So far it's been love from my enemies and hatred from my friends.”
He reiterated, though, that if Republicans “can get 85 percent spending cuts and 15 percent tax increases, that's a great deal for Republicans.”
He also argued for the importance of compromise in a two party system. “If you're going to reach an agreement in a two party system, you have to give the other party something. You can't just pretend it doesn't exist.”