Republicans look ready to throw in the towel on shrinking the nation's gargantuan debt. With 10 months to go before midterm elections, it's yet another slap in the face to the GOP's most enthusiastic supporters.
Nearly all political pundits agree Republicans have the inside track to winning this fall's congressional elections — and perhaps even recapturing both houses of Congress. The GOP certainly seems to think so. But it might be taking such success for granted.
Not only are party leaders like John Boehner and Paul Ryan talking up limited amnesty for immigration law breakers, but Republicans simply shrugged when the $1 trillion pork-filled farm bill came up for a vote.
Now there's a move afoot to surrender on the fight over the nation's debt — a betrayal of future generations of hard-working middle-class families that will have to struggle to pay it all off.
Sounding more like Democrats all the time, such moves could backfire spectacularly.
Remember, Republicans don't have an edge in voter registration. Our own IBD/TIPP Poll data show the GOP has about 30% of the voting public vs. 35% each for Democrats and independents.
The electoral math is very simple. Not only do Republicans have to poach votes from fiscally conservative independents and fed-up moderate Democrats, they also must line up Tea Party voters — the most focused, active, principled and conservative bloc out there.
Democrats are far better at feeding their liberal base — which is why they win elections despite their stunning incompetence once in power. As they say in the marketing world, it's all about branding. And Democrats are the "left" brand.
So what about the Republicans? Based on recent actions, they're the "me too" brand. Sure, going along to get along in Washington is sometimes necessary, and compromise isn't always a dirty word, especially if you can advance a key principle of governance in doing so.
But it's important to let your most fervent supporters know you won't betray them when big votes come up. You must stand for something. And this is where Republicans are failing now.
The plan for partial amnesty, for example, will lead to a new surge in illegal immigration as millions in other countries seek the sweet life in the U.S. because they can see the law really doesn't mean much.
It will put pressure on wages for entry-level and unskilled workers, take jobs from minorities, boost crime and add massively to future welfare costs.
As for the $1 trillion Farm Bill, fully 80% isn't spent on agriculture at all. Most of it goes to a food stamp program that has quadrupled over the last decade and now provides food welfare to 47 million Americans. It may also be the most corrupt government program of all, with billions a year in fraud and waste. Do Republicans really want to defend such a vote?
Finally, Republicans signaled this week that they might give Democrats a pass next month on raising the debt ceiling. The GOP seems to think it was a tactical mistake last year to flex its muscles by insisting that spending hikes be offset by budget cuts elsewhere.
America's debt, however, is piling up at a dangerous rate — from $7 trillion in 2003 to last year's $17.4 trillion, a staggering $142,000 per household. By 2023, servicing that debt will cost $6,000 per household. And it will only rise from there.
Kicking the can still further down the road and becoming identified as just another party of big government and big debt is no way to win elections. It's a really good way, however, to encourage a third-party movement.
Republicans need to give voters a reason to support them in the next election. "Me too" won't cut it.