Keep trying, Lamar

KEEP TRYING, LAMAR…. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) conceded to the New York Times that Republicans have not yet “found our voice” during Obama’s presidency. To help prove the point, Alexander delivered the party’s weekly multimedia address yesterday.

“We Americans always have had a love-hate relationship with the French. Which was why it was so galling last month when the Democratic Congress passed a budget with such big deficits that it makes the United States literally ineligible to join France in the European Union.

“Now of course we don’t want to be in the European Union. We’re the United States of America. But French deficits are lower than ours, and their president has been running around sounding like a Republican — lecturing our president about spending so much.”

Yes, we now have conservative Republicans citing the French as a source to criticize American leadership. Times sure have changed.

The annoying part of this, of course, is the notion that we’re “literally ineligible” for the European Union (irrespective of our distance from Europe). Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) recently made the same argument, telling MSNBC, “We won’t even be able to get into the EU if we wanted to because our government is so large and so huge.”

If this is going to become a new GOP talking point, it’s probably worth noting how terribly wrong it is. The EU requires budget deficits of less than 3% for members, and a national debt below 60% GDP.

But Alexander and Gregg forgot to do their homework. The EU offers flexibility to governments that are responding to economic crises — note to Republicans: we’re in the midst of an economic crisis — and several EU members will run deficits well above 3% this year. Those countries will be expected to lower those deficits in the coming years, which not incidentally, is what the Obama administration plans to do in the U.S.

In other words, Alexander and Gregg don’t know what they’re talking about.

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