James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Americans growing more worried about debt

Mar 10, 2011 20:51 UTC

They are still more concerned about jobs —  but debt fears are growing, Gallup says:


Yes, discretionary spending is a big problem

Mar 10, 2011 20:30 UTC

Congress should be looking hard at dramatic discretionary spending cuts.  It’s really gotten out of control (via the Congressional Budget Office):

Such outlays equaled about 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) during much of the 1970s and 1980s, then gradually fell to 6.2 percent of GDP in 1999 . Thereafter, discretionary outlays began increasing relative to GDP— reaching 7.0 percent in 2002 and 7.9 percent by 2008— partly because of actions taken in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and subsequent military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the past few years, discretionary spending has been boosted by funding provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and by policy responses to the recent turmoil in financial markets. Discretionary outlays rose to 8.8 percent of GDP in 2009 and to 9.3 percent last year—the highest share of GDP since 1988.

And here is what is in discretionary spending:


Have Republicans forgotten Reagan?

Mar 10, 2011 15:38 UTC

My pal Charlie Gasparino questions whether the GOP is making a huge mistake by focusing so intently on cutting deficits and spending:

The GOP — where Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan once saw a limitless future based on a free-market plan for growth — has become the party of green eyeshades, government shutdowns and dour predictions about our future, while the American people continue to suffer. …  In recent weeks, the left-leaning and bailed-out Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs offered what the mainstream media considered a credible take on how GOP efforts to block the president’s spending initiatives will slow our feeble economic recovery and modest reductions in unemployment. … Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have become GOP icons for their courage in taking on public-sector unions — but the broader appeal of their message of cutting budgets before cutting taxes is still questionable.

On the face of it, at least, Charlie may have the politics right. Here are two recent polls (via PollingReport.com) that look at national priorities. Both put jobs ahead of deficits.


Of course, what Republicans are trying to do is make the case that cutting spending is good for growth because a) it will prevent a debt crisis like Ireland and Greece have experienced, and b) it will shift resources from  low-productivity government to the higher-productivity private sector. And I think there is some evidence that the argument is starting to take hold, such as this recent Bloomberg poll:


That being said, I would like to see a clear and comprehensive plan to reform taxes and reduce regulation. Still waiting, though.


I hope so. Didn’t Ronald Reagan Jr recently confide that his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s during his second term as President. Which would still make him more forward-thinking than the tea-partiers.

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Who’s up, down for White House 2012

Mar 10, 2011 15:34 UTC

National Journal’s Hotline is out with its insiders’ take on the state of the Republican race for the White House:


Obama’s nightmare jobs chart

Mar 10, 2011 14:07 UTC

The infamous Bernstein-Romer chart, now updated for political freshness:



A real nightmare chart would include unemployment under the proposed GOP plan. It’s even higher than the ‘without recovery plan’ pattern.

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