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The Common Cause of the Social Insurance Defenders and the Supply-Siders

On Friday I discussed how some Republicans felt discomfort with the turn toward austerity and away from the supply-side fantasies once championed by deceased figures like Jack Kemp. Larry Kudlow was less than happy as well. Speaking at a Jack Kemp foundation benefit, Kudlow articulated precisely the perspective of this wing of the GOP.

“When the GOP talks growth, we win,” said Kudlow. “When the GOP talks root canal, and deficits, and debt, we don’t win, because the average working Joe doesn’t doesn’t sit around counting deficits. They want enough: Can they get a paycheck and keep more of what they earn? I want Romney to make this case.”

If and when the grand bargain comes down the line, the supply-siders will be the group to make common cause with the liberal protectors of the safety net. They will have completely different reasons: the liberals want to maintain the adequacy of social insurance programs, while the supply-siders simply want to win elections by promising two Santa Clauses to people (endlessly low taxes with endlessly enough revenue to provide services). But despite coming at it from different angles, fundamentally the message will be the same – this grand bargain represents political and policy suicide.

It’s possible, maybe even probable, that the moneyed interests and the bipartisan fetishists win the day. But there is a faction on the right that hates the idea of doing anything economically other than cutting taxes.

As we move into the lame duck session and the fiscal cliff, it’s good to identify allies.

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David Dayen

David Dayen