POLITICS
07/05/2011 05:49 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2011

David Brooks: GOP 'May No Longer Be A Normal Party'

The Republican party “may no longer be a normal party,” David Brooks writes in his New York Times column Tuesday.

In negotiations with Democrats on the debt ceiling, Brooks says that Republicans have already extracted large concessions: trillions of dollars in spending cuts, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, so long as Republicans agree to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans and give fewer tax breaks to oil companies.

It's the “the deal of the century,” Brooks writes, and “if the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment.”

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party.

The Republican insistence that tax increases must be off the table in any debt ceiling deal is a sign, Brooks writes, that over the past few years, the Republican party “has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.”

“To members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation,” Brooks writes.

The Obama administration has warned that if the government's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit is not raised by Aug. 2, the U.S. will face its first default ever, potentially throwing world financial markets into turmoil, raising interest rates and threatening the economic recovery. Many congressional Republicans indicate they're unconvinced that such scenarios would occur, and some administration officials worry that it could take a financial calamity before Congress acts.

With the Aug. 2 deadline nearing, the Senate canceled its July Fourth recess planned for this week.

Obama has said that in talks Republican and Democratic negotiators have found more than $1 trillion in potential spending cuts over the coming decade, including reductions favored by both sides.

A Democratic official said last week that of those cuts, roughly $200 billion would come mainly from savings from Medicaid and Medicare, the government health insurance programs for the poor and elderly.

Another $200 billion would come from cuts in other automatically paid benefit programs, including farm subsidies. Another large chunk would come from cuts in discretionary spending that Congress approves every year -- presumably more than $1 trillion, which is more than the White House but less than Republicans have proposed.

Both sides would then also count whatever interest savings they achieve through those deficit cuts.

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