Why Republicans Won’t Agree To A Fiscal Cliff Deal Even If It Has What They Want

by evanmcmurry

Ezra Klein makes the subtext text. You already knew all this, but now you know know it:

Underlying the complaints of conservatives like Gohmert and Americans for Tax Reform is that their goal isn’t to reduce deficits. If it was, they’d be open to tax increases. Rather, austerity is one of many arguments marshaled toward the long-term end of shrinking the size of government. That’s why a deal that solves the deficit problem and then sees government spending rise in its eight year is a failure rather than a success — it betrayed the actual goal of shrinking the size of the government, even if it succeeded in the putative goal of balancing the budget. 

This is why a “fiscal cliff” deal is proving so difficult. There’s little doubt that a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts could bring deficits to manageable levels within a few years. Add in some stimulus and we could even protect the recovery between here and there. Moreover, since the discretionary spending cuts have already been made, the next set of spending cuts will likely focus on entitlements. Those are easier to make stick, as they don’t come up for a new vote each year.

But for Republicans, agreeing to those tax increases means agreeing to a larger government than would be possible in the absence of those tax increases. That undermines their real goal: Not smaller deficits, but smaller government.

Klein points out that this intransigence means Republicans will lose their leverage on tax cuts when the rest of toast next Monday night. Tax increases are happening one way or the other, and be being obstinate conservatives are ensuring the budget will eventually be balanced without their input—which is fitting, as they don’t really care about it anyway.