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Romney has already distanced himself from some of the few draconian specifics of Ryan's plan. But he has proposed even more-aggressive tax cuts for businesses and investors, which have defined the GOP agenda for decades. Would the Republicans also cut spending? That's harder to say. They haven't in the past; history suggests their concern about deficit reduction mostly emerges when they're out of power. There's a reason Romney won't specify what he wants to cut beyond NPR and Amtrak. It's the same reason Ryan trashed the stimulus as a "wasteful spending spree" while seeking stimulus dollars for his district. Government spending--on Medicare, defense and even the actual contents of the stimulus--remains popular, even though "the government" is not.
And while "deficit reduction" is popular, the spending cuts that actually reduce the deficit are not.
In 2008, Republicans said they were done with Bush-style Big Government conservatism. But the temptation to cut taxes and keep spending remains. Romney will have to decide how fully to embrace the Tea Party vision. And then the ferret will have to decide whether to bite.
Adapted from The New New Deal, copyright 2012 by Michael Grunwald. Published August 2012 by Simon & Schuster Inc. Reprinted by permission
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