One of the most interesting spectator sports of this election cycle is to watch Tea Party-oriented candidates rant and rave about government spending being a threat to liberty, and then change their tune entirely when asked about a specific, popular program like Social Security and Medicare. Here (via Dave Weigel) is Forbes‘ Shikha Dalmia, who wants to cut entitlement spending bad, complaining about Tea Party gutlessness:
[P]olls by the New York Times and Bloomberg have found that although a vast majority of Tea Party supporters favor smaller government, they don’t want cuts in their Medicare or Social Security, a contradiction perfectly captured in a sign at a Tea Party rally: “Keep the Guvmint out of my Medicare.” Indeed, the Bloomberg poll discovered that even though Tea Partiers dislike ObamaCare, they want Medicare to offer more drug benefits and the government to force insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. The upshot is that while the rhetoric on entitlements has become bolder during this election, the discussion about reform has become tamer.
In fact, setting aside the lapsed witch of Delaware, Christie O’ Donnell, in the most visible Senate races where Tea Party or Tea Party-anointed candidates are running, only two have stuck to their crosses on entitlement reform. One is Joe Miller of Alaska, a man so unfamiliar with the First Amendment that he conducted a citizen’s arrest of a reporter for asking tough questions. The other is Sharron Angle of Nevada, a genuine bright spot in an otherwise bleak Tea Party landscape, who admirably admonished Harry Reid to “man up” and admit that Social Security had a problem.
Literally all of the others are equivocating if not completely backing off from their original plans to give at least partial ownership of Medicare and Social Security to individuals themselves.
Indeed, the Man Who Would Be Speaker, John Boehner, seems to be moving in a very different direction, according to David Frum:
On the Sean Hannity radio program this afternoon, Speaker-presumptive John Boehner was interestingly cautious about promising actually to do anything in the new Congress.
But there was one thing Boehner did specifically pledge: Republicans would call a vote on restoring President Obama’s cuts to Medicare.
Clearly, the impending collision between Republican rhetoric on budget deficits and their specific spending and tax cut commitments is going to be pretty massive, and this time, it’s not something that will go without notice.