Arnold Kling  

Maybe Brad DeLong is Right

The Russian Soul... But I Still Disagree with Brad...

From the Washington Times:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.

As Brad might say, "Impeach them. Do it now."

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CATEGORIES: Fiscal Policy

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The author at Houston's Clear Thinkers in a related article titled Tom DeLay said what? writes:
    This Washington Times article refers to House Majority Leager Tom DeLay's recent comments regarding the Bush Administration's record on government spending: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting sp... [Tracked on September 15, 2005 7:50 AM]
COMMENTS (14 to date)
Tom writes:

DeLay should be stripped of his leadership position by the Republican party.

Matt McIntosh writes:

Tom, why would they do that when most of them are in on the same deal? He's majority leader for a reason.

El Presidente writes:

What? I though Republicans were fiscal conservatives. This is news to me. Economists dislike some Republicans too?

Tom writes:

Matt, I said should be, not would be. Republicans haven't been conservative at least since Bush took office. Unfortunately, the Democrat alternative to Bush's Neo-Conservatism was the environmental-wacko Gore and the most-Liberal-Senator-in-the-Senate Kerry. DeLay's view of the budget probably reflects that of Bush's. But if Bush appoints two or more solidly conservative members to the Supreme Court this may be worth the horrible Bush presidency.

Chucky Schumer of NY spelled it out in Roberts confirmation hearing when he said that a Conservative court could overturn the Liberal interpretation of the commerce clause, which would mean in Chucky's own words:

Not only would the Endangered Species Act go, Title VII would go, OSHA would be gone, the Controlled Substances Act and prohibitions against personal possessions of biological weapons could all be unconstitutional.
And much, much more of the Federal government would be gone as well. Let's hope old Chucky is right. And if this does come to pass then Bush could indirectly become the biggest budget cutter in two-hundred years.

David Thomson writes:

Tom DeLay did make a fool of himself. That is one of the dumbest assertions I’ve heard in a long time. The Republicans are indeed often hypocritical and wasteful. President Bush should also be taken to task for his spendthrift ways. And yet, the Republicans are still the only game in town. The Democrats are far worse. Never forget that Brad DeLong represents the marginalized wing of the Democratic Party. Those in power today perceive him as some sort of right-wing nut case. This is especially the case regarding free trade issues. The Republicans are the lesser of evils---and that is not going to change anytime in the near future. Doesn't that make you want to cry?

Timothy writes:

Tom: To be fair, Kerry is only the second most liberal Congresscritter in the senate. Remember, Ted "Not Worth A Bullet" Kennedy is still hanging around.

That said, fiscal conservatism appears to, sadly, be not all that popular with the electorate.

David Thomson writes:

There are rumors that Tom DeLay was speaking in a tongue in cheek manner. My guess is that this actually the case. It’s hard for me to imagine DeLay saying something that stupid with a straight face.

Conservatives are often slandered in such a manner. This occasionally happens to Rush Limbaugh who uses a lot of humor on his radio program. His enemies will ignore the irony and instead quote him literally. By the way, this is a major reason why I adamantly claim that computers will never be able to communicate with human beings like HAL in the movie 2001. How do you teach a computer to distinguish between literal and rhetorical language?

Zubon writes:

"How do you teach a computer to distinguish between literal and rhetorical language?"

Please forgive me for not having a citation handy, but neurological research seems to have identified the part of the brain used to understand sarcasm. That is, people with certain kinds of brain trauma/damage cannot tell when statements such as "Don't work too hard" are meant seriously or facetiously. We could presumably recreate this electronically so that computers can understand such language.

Tom writes:


I believe the rumors that Tom DeLay was speaking in a tongue and cheek manner are just spin his supporters are using to deflect criticism. Actions speak louder than words. Tom DeLay's actions back up his words. But if he would like to introduce a spending cuts bill in the House that will offset the Hurricane Katrina spending increases then he can prove me wrong. But I won't be holding my breath for that to happen.

Brad Hutchings writes:


I'd like to see the tape and see the context. Here are two very recent and relevant examples of how the reporting press completely ignored the context, expression, and totality of a politicians remarks and totally got them wrong:

(1) When President Bush said he'd "take full responsibility" for Katrina... he actually said that to the extent that the federal government fell short in its reactions, he would take full responsibility. There is a big difference. Peggy Noonan points out in Opinion Journal today that he weaseled out of it with that whole phraseology. I don't think it was quite Cliontonesque or bordering on it, but I do think it has a strong qualifier. And it's ignored in the retellings.

(2) In the Roberts hearings, there was an exchange between Senators Specter and Biden that is getting all sorts of attention in conservative circles (any excuse to hang Specter):

SPECTER: Let him finish his answer, Senator Biden.
BIDEN: His answers are misleading, with all due respect....
SPECTER: Now, wait a minute, wait a minute. They may be misleading, but they are his answers.

Puh-lease... You have to have the sense of humor of a rock to think that Specter was being serious. Especially if you watched the tape.

So with those recent examples of how the press manages to twist words and repeat, repeat, repeat until all context is lost, I am inclined to say "get the tape" before I send a campaign contribution to the Democratic prosecutor from Delay's home town who has made a career of filing baseless indictments against him.

Chris Bolts writes:

If there's one thing that Bush has been successful at doing during his tenure as president, it is that he has convinced many Republicans that compassionate conservatism = bigger government couple with fiscal imprudence. The sad thing is that liberals and Democrats are so blinded by their hatred for Bush over the Iraq War that they don't realize that he has done more to advance their agenda than any other president since Lyndon Johnson.

Brad Hutchings writes:

National Review Online has a transcript with context. Leading question, he tempers the enthusiasm of the questioner with the "ongoing victory" phrase. That's my reading anyway. Judge for yourselves.

From the transcript:

"Mr. DeLay: After 11 years of Republican majority we pared it down pretty good. I mean, in our own -- this year, our own budget, and our -- you know, we passed all of our appropriations bill[s]. If you will look at the combined effect of those appropriations bills, we eliminated over 100 offices and more programs. We have been doing that for 11 years.

"Q So are you ready to claim victory in that? Are you guys there?

"Mr. DeLay: I am ready to declare ongoing victory. It is still a process. After this reconciliation process, when we reform all the entitlement programs, that is another victory or a small battle. And the effort that we have been going for the last 11 years. Yes."

Paul N writes:

I agree DeLay's comment is foolish, but perhaps it is a reasonable assertion that spending on each govt. program is pretty "lean".

The disturbing thing is that rather than evaluating whether or not each program makes sense, DeLay & Co. are (politically?) constrained to % increases and % decreases in existing programs.

I would like to hear peoples' examples of which govt. spending programs are "fat" or inefficient, from a fiscal (not economic) point of view, i.e. even if you disagree with the government providing a particular program (I probably also do), is it true that the program is also inefficient (like $10,000 toilet seats or something).

David Thomson writes:

Tom DeLay made a fool of himself. I can no longer pretend that he might be speaking ironically. He is a cold reminder that we must exert pressure on Republicans to make sure they behave themselves. They are usually better than Democrats regarding economic matters---but are still far from perfect.

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