*The GOP’s ‘Big Three’

THE GOP’S ‘BIG THREE’…. Time‘s Mark Halperin put together a Top 10 list the other day, pointing to the various reasons he believes the “Republican Party (and the conservative movement) is in a world of hurt.” Some of the observations are more cogent than others.

Halperin points to issues such as Michael Steele’s troubles, the party’s leadership vacuum, and the right’s difficulties overcoming President Obama’s strengths. I think he missed a few — including the fact that the party failed spectacularly at governing and is on track to become a reactionary regional party — but the exercise is not without merit.

Of particular interest, though, was #9 on Halperin’s list: “The near impotence of the right’s long-term Big Three issues (national security, taxes, and social issues).”

Jon Chait had a good take on this:

There are three main categories of public policy, right? National security, economic policy, and social policy. Halperin identifies the GOP as having three issues (he means categories). National security is national security. Social issues are social issues. But economic policy is simply “taxes.”

Halperin is right that the Republican Party’s economic worldview can be simply defined as a position on taxes. But isn’t that in and of itself the bigger problem? Doesn’t that not only explain the party’s inability to connect in a country where most people’s income taxes, but also the party’s inability to manage the economy in office and craft compelling alternative policies when not in office?

I think there’s a word or two missing in that second paragraph, but regardless, Chait’s point is absolutely right. In fact, this was driven home this week by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) “Solutions Center,” which advised tax cuts for every imaginable economic ill. The party simply doesn’t have anything else to offer.

Obviously, this isn’t new. Tax cuts are the Swiss Army Knife of the Republican policy arsenal, addressing and/or preventing every conceivable problem. What is new is that most Americans simply don’t find tax cuts salient or persuasive anymore. It makes the other nine points on Halperin’s list largely irrelevant.