TAXES AND PROGRAMS….Ryan Sager has some worrisome words about the recent CPAC conference (“Here, evolution is a wild hypothesis, ‘Log Cabin Republican’ is a slur and young women know they have to wear short skirts to get ahead”) and Andrew Sullivan worries right along with him:

But what if Bush really is successful politically ? and entrenches big government, moralizing paternalism as the Republican core for a new generation. What happens to real conservatism?

A better question is, what happens period? It’s important to understand the underlying dynamic at work here.

In the past, Democrats were (roughly) the party of big government programs. People liked the programs but didn’t like the high taxes that went along with them, so periodically they would revolt and elect a Republican.

Conversely, Republicans were (roughly) the party of fiscal responsibility and low taxes. People liked the low taxes but didn’t like the stingy attitude toward government programs that went along with them, so periodically they would revolt and elect a Democrat.

George Bush and Karl Rove think they’ve found a better way: favor low taxes and big government programs. That way, everyone likes you and Republicans can rule forever.

So what happens next? One of three things:

  • They start cutting back on programs.

  • They start raising taxes.

  • The economy eventually goes kablooey due to persistent and increasing deficits.

Unless the laws of arithmetic and/or economics change dramatically in the near future, I don’t think there’s a fourth choice. Do Bush and Rove understand this? Maybe. Maybe they vaguely realize they’ve gotten themselves in a jam but don’t see a way out. Or maybe they just don’t care because the piper won’t have to be paid until Bush is out of office. I don’t know.

Regardless, though, those are your three choices and all the loony talk in the world won’t change the essential reality. So which one does the Republican party really prefer? Stay tuned.

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