Steven Rattner: Republican Extremism, Bad Economics

August 16th, 2011

The New York Times
By Steven Rattner
August 15, 2011

IN the middle of all the debt default drama and stock market turbulence, the leading Republican presidential candidates have begun to fill in the shadowy outlines of their positions on major economic issues.

And what a picture it is, a philosophy oriented around shrinking the role of the federal government in every imaginable way, by slashing spending, cutting taxes and halting or rescinding regulations. Their mantra is repeal and retrenchment, devoid of new initiatives or a positive agenda.

Some of these views are to the right even of the Tea Party; they amount to the most radically conservative positions of any set of candidates at least since Barry M. Goldwater in 1964.

Take the agreement to avert a disastrous default by cutting at least $2.1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul all opposed it. Only Jon M. Huntsman Jr. (whose poll numbers — perhaps not coincidentally — are in the single digits) supported it. In contrast, 58 percent of the members of the Tea Party in the House ultimately cast yes votes.

Not to be outdone, Mrs. Bachmann and Mr. Paul ventured still further, insisting that they would never vote to raise the debt ceiling. That may sound good on the Iowa campaign trail, but it would easily tip the economy into an unending downward spiral.

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