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The G.O.P.'s Fiscally-Conservative Frauds

01/08/2011 11:10 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"I don't think I have one off the top of my head. But there is no part of this government that should be sacred." -- New U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) when asked to name a government program we could do without

To paraphrase former GOP Michigan Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, Republicans hate raising taxes, but they hate cutting spending even more.

The newly gavel-wielding speaker of the U.S. House nicely demonstrated that maxim, first by throwing a hissy fit last month over raising taxes on billionaires to pay down the debt. And this week, John Boehner was stumped by Brian Williams' inquiry as to a single government program that we could all live without.

Alas, Boehner is not alone in his confusion. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), long considered the heir to intellectual conservatism, also declined this week to name specific programs on his target list.

"I can't tell you by what amount and which program, but all of it is going to be going down," he sputtered on The Today Show.

The deficit loomed large in the last election, with Republicans winning the argument that they would tame the beast created by President Obama and his free-spending Democratic posse.

But as the free-market Cato Institute notes, Obama has been falsely blamed for exploding the deficit to $1.4 trillion in 2009. That was mostly the fault of George W. Bush, notes the think tank that's hardly in the tank for Obama. How did the Republican do it? How about two wars, massive tax cuts, No Child Left Behind and the biggest expansion of an entitlement program since the 1960s with Medicare Part D?

Hard to remember, but when the last Democratic president left office, there was a budget surplus.

Republicans ran on the idea that they're no longer the party of Bush. They had pledged to cut $100 million in spending this year -- though not to anything that's really crimping the deficit like Medicare, Social Security or national defense. But they quickly backed away from that promise, and now it's looking like it will be pared down to $30 billion or so. President Obama already helped the GOP out last year by proposing a federal employee pay freeze.

The GOP also has dumped the fiscally responsible policy of "paygo" under the Democratic House, whereby any new spending had to be paid for. The GOP has introduced "cutgo," requiring any new spending with budget cuts somewhere else.

That sounds reasonable enough on the surface, but it's actually a recipe for deficit padding. That's because there's a mighty big loophole in that no tax cuts need to be paid for. That means that Republicans have conveniently exempted some of their top priorities, like proposals to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts and keep low estate tax rates.

Now Republicans can make the argument that tax cuts spur economic activity. But they still take a big bite out of federal (and state) budgets and magnify the deficit. This isn't propaganda from Chairman Mao. Former John McCain financial adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin and former Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have both stated that tax cuts don't pay for themselves.

Adding insult to injury, the new GOP House majority went on a spending spree. Repealing the new national health care reform law will explode the national deficit by $230 billion by 2021, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. (Republican whining about the CBO's analysis is the equivalent of yelling at the ump for your sucky pitching).

Tea Partiers must be pretty sore at these charlatans of fiscal conservatism.