Seven Ideas for the GOP After Debt Day

August 1st, 2011 at 10:26 am David Frum | 50 Comments |

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In my column for CNN, I discuss seven ideas for the GOP to take up after the debt crisis has passed:

1) Unemployment is a more urgent problem than debt.

The U.S. can borrow money for 10 years at less than 3%. It can borrow money for two years at less than one-half a percent. Yes, the burden of debt is worrying. Yet lenders seem undaunted by those worries.

Meanwhile, more than 14 million Americans are out of work, more than 6 million for longer than six months. The United States has not seen so many people out of work for so long since the 1930s.

2) The deficit is a symptom of America’s economic problems, not a cause.

When the economy slumps, government revenues decline and government spending surges.

Federal revenues have collapsed since 2007, down from more than 18% of national income to a little more than 14%. To put that in perspective: That’s the equivalent of losing enough revenue to support the entire defense budget.

Federal spending has jumped to pay for unemployment insurance, food stamps and Medicaid benefits.

Fix the economy first, and the deficit will improve on its own.

Click here to read the full column.

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50 Comments so far ↓

  • Pavonis

    Come join the Democratic Party, Mr. Frum! We’ve been very busy passing center-right legislation like the PPACA and have now given up on raising taxes on the rich! You’d fit right in.

  • drcme

    Mr. Frum: You are not a Republican. Each and every one of your points reveals this. Come join the forces of good!

  • Steve D

    A few more:
    1. Nobody should be allowed to run as a Republican without military service (or an alternative for physically handicapped or genuine conscientious objectors)
    2. Nobody should be allowed to run as a Republican if they’re in arrears on any debt, including taxes and child support.
    3. Ditto having an adulterous affair.
    4. Ditto not being public about sexual preference. Gay is okay. Lying isn’t.
    5. Ditto being convicted for DUI – ever.
    6. Ditto declaring bankruptcy – ever.
    7. Ditto defaulting on a mortgage.

    • Carney

      The importance of hypocrisy is wildly overrated.

      In any case, why not require of elected Democrats that:

      they write a check to the US treasury for double the amount they owe for taxes;

      they send their kids to local public schools (or better yet get bused across town to the “inner city” school where they’ll stand out like sore thumbs);

      give up their jobs, or spot in an elite college, for the sake of diversity;


      • Primrose

        Excuse me Carney but most Dems DO send their kids to public schools. I don’t even get the double taxes things since surely taxes are a shared sacrifice. Also, you seem to be unaware that democrats come in all ethnicities so that sore thumb bit, uh they are with fellow democrats. Or don’t other ethnicities count as people to you?

        Plenty of democrats go to state schools. Plenty of Republicans go to private ones. Plenty Republicans go to private or parochial schools.

        I thought Norway gave you pause. I guess not very long.

      • Steve D

        I like most of these but I’m more concerned about restoring credibility to the Republican Party. Being drunk, adulterous chicken hawks won’t do it.

  • rbottoms

    Blah, blah, blah you’ll still vote Republican, they know, so what you say doesn’t matter a damn.

  • LFC

    Too much sanity in those words for the current Republican Party. Those days have been dead for a long time.

  • Solo4114

    I do not want David Frum to become a Democrat.

    There, I said it.

    I want him to stay a Republican and, in fact, I want MORE Republicans like him. I may not agree with every point that he says, but he is, at least, a reasonable man and someone who appears to be interested in actual governance and what is best for the nation. He also appears to talk in more than JUST soundbytes, but is able to condense his points into straightforward language.

    If this latest farce should teach us anything about how government operates, it should be that we are WORSE off if we have only the lunatic fringe running either political party. Yes, being able to crow about your crushing victory is great, and you can bust your rotator cuff patting yourself on the back about how the opposition will spend the next 20 years “in the wilderness.”

    But look at what happens when a political party engages in such actions. They get sloppy. They overreach. They get lazy about messaging. They get embroiled in inevitable internal conflicts resulting from their “big tent” status as RINOs/DINOs “betray” their parties and are cast out as heretics for it.

    And then the crazies come in on the other side. While the “majority” side is busy resting on its laurels, the lunatic fringe takes over the other side and basically makes it impossible to get anything done. See, our government is specifically set up to allow minority factions to put the brakes on…well, anything, really. Thus, a “rump” party of little more than lunatics and political cowards is inherently dangerous to the rest of the country, because even a “rump” party can gum up the works.

    This whole episode is bad for EVERYONE. The GOP has essentially engaged in political nuclear warfare, and now there is no reason for the Dems not to return the favor when they are inevitably on the outs again in the future. Remember, there is no Geneva Convention for politics.

    This is why I want more GOP members like Mr. Frum here. Regardless of what side of the fence you happen to sit on, YOU want a reasonable opponent on the other side, rather than some frothing lunatic.

    • Cindyflo


    • think4yourself


      Two reasonable parties, with differing views that represent America lead to compromise in the best interest of all Americans. Two parties controlled by their fringe elements lead to holy wars.

    • hambone

      +3. Kind of sums up my whole reason for visiting this site.

      • Primrose

        I’m with the crowd here. I don’t want him in my party because he doesn’t share my views, but I very much would like my party to sit down and make compromises with Republicans like him. Not because we would “win” more but because the resulting product would be better for all.

    • Banty

      +4 Heck, more David Frums, and I can go back to being a Republican, rather than voting for anything breathing and blue, to try and avoid handing the country over to an extremist, ignorant faction.

  • Slide

    Here is one idea for the GOP:

    1) put the good of your country ahead of your thirst for power just once.

    • balconesfault

      I was thinking similarly.

      Right now how about “quit trying to stall the recover so you can blame it on Obama”.


      This is like telling a four-year-old not to eat all the cookies, and then agreeing to buy more cookies if he finishes the ones in the jar.

      Why should they, when they get rewarded for doing what they want?

      • jamesj

        Bingo. The only check against this would be vigorous truth telling by the media or righteous anger from the voting public.

        Obviously we’re doomed.

      • Banty

        Just to be a little contrary, I gotta note that that’s exactly why Gover Norquist says he’s so against tax increases. The cookie jar thing…

  • indy

    So much ado about so little. The only things to come of this whole thing that I can see:

    There won’t be a default.

    Minor spending cuts to the 2012 budget.

    Kicked the can down the road where a new congress, hopefully absent some of the current morons, will try to deal with it and probably fail as well.

    BBA is dead.

    In other words, exactly what could be expected.

    • Frumplestiltskin

      indy, I agree and the notion that future Congresses will feel obligated to hold to any of these spending cuts is fanciful to say the least. What are future reps going to run one…we are placeholders while cuts done under duress play out? Even Republicans when they get to the White House feel the need to do something…which is why Bush did NCLB, Medicare Part D, tried to do immigration reform, etc. and Bush was about as conservative as anyone can be and be elected.
      I know it sounds selfish, but I got 3 kids, I know how truly bad these ahole Republicans are now and will never vote for this lot in any capacity and I am pretty Conservative. (actually Centrist, liberal some areas conservative others)

  • LFC

    Mitt Romney on the deal…

    “As president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped and balanced — not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table.”

    Mitt has now publicly state that he is in total alignment with the Tea Party when it comes to handling the economy and government spending. If he wins, we’re doomed to another lost decade, just like the one we’re experiencing compliments of George W and Republican controlled Congress.

  • FSC

    Given the economy as it is today, it is my firm belief that if the Democratic/Republican roles were reversed today, Republicans would be thinking in Keynesian terms and finding ways to stimulate the economy that comported with their ideology. IE, they would be very afraid of the effects, on their presidential hopes, of a bad economy in Nov 2012.


    if David Frum truly believes what he says in this post about the effects on the economy of current Republican policy (eg “Fix the economy first, and the deficit will improve on its own…..Cut the deficit first, and the economy will get even sicker.” … etc), I would really, really like to see him address what-appears-to-me to be an obvious fact – namely, that the Republican leadership (I’m not talking about the TeaParty here – I think they’re simply being used as tools) is deliberately following policies which wi;; hurt the US economy (now and in the next 1-2 years) but will improve their 2012 election prospects.

    To put the question more bluntly Mr Frum:: is this undermining of the health of the US economy by the leadership of your party due to stupidity, or charlatanism? Or do you see any other explanation?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    LFC, you really believe Mittens? He will flip flop on this statement about 20 times before election day.

    • LFC

      To answer your question, Frump, absolutely not. Gumby has changed position so often that I think his campaign song should be “Candle in the Wind”, “Dust in the Wind”, or “Helter Skelter”.

      But I still think my statement that he has now publicly stated he is in total alignment with the Tea Party on the economy and spending is true. I also believe that we’re doomed to another lost decade if he wins. Think about it. If he’s king of the pander bears leading up to the election, what would he be like if he’s worried about RE-election?

  • think4yourself

    Bravo DF. If that is what the Republican Party stood for, I would vote for that party (course there is still the pesky little issue about the Evangelicals and their determination to spy in everyone’s bedroom to bust them – except for their own leaders immoralities of course).

    David, I liked everything you said. I’d really like to see a Conservative suggestion for increasing jobs, other than lowering taxes (not a solution, hasn’t worked and been tried 2/3rds of stimulus bill, etc.). The Liberal suggestion as led by Paul Krugman is spend another couple of trillion. I don’t think that is appropriate, you can spend your way into bankruptcy and as with previous stimulus efforts has at best provided only a short term bump (see cash for clunkers, credits for mortgages, etc.).

    What’s the Conservative solution to increasing jobs in the US?

  • Smargalicious

    Frum, methinks you are a DemocRat.

  • molain

    Will you please run for president?

  • Traveler51

    “I grow more disappoint­ed in the President with each passing hour. The Republican­s, however, do not pique any sensitivit­ies because they act as expected. I dislike everything they do and say, and I have a rabid aversion for each of them, but I understand that as a wolf has no option but to slay a lamb, the Republican­s merely act within nature. That is who they are. We don’t fault the eagle or owl for preying on their victims, and they do no wrong, fot it is the nature of the beast that they are. They have no conscience or free will and therefor are sin-free for it is in their natural nature. That is how I view Republican­s, as doing their natural things as the beast they are.
    There are ways to deal with all these predators that we need to be aware of. I wish the Democrats and the President would see them so clearly and understand the nature of the beast. It would be easier to neutralize them.”

  • jazzpony

    Finally! A Republican like I am… although I am now being called a “liberal” by the existing Republican mouthpieces..

    I agree with everything you say here, but not on the elimination of the mortgage interest tax deduction. Eliminating this deduction will increase taxes on the middle class and lower middle class homeowners, who have already been hammered to death by the current economy and are struggling to hang on.

    This deduction does not impact the upper middle class and the upper class, as the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) eventually eliminates the deduction for them. Rethink your position on this point…

    • Primrose

      I think we can end the deduction on homes over a million, with a possible exception of very high markets like NYC or San Jose, where that is a middle class home. I certainly think we can end it on second homes. That is just insane.

    • garytheCPA

      Hi Laurie,
      The AMT does not eliminate most of the mortgage interest deduction, nor does it only effect middle/upper and upper income people. Property taxes, yes.

      AMT eliminates home equity debt in some case, but not always.

      Primrose, its currectly cap’d at $1.1M but I think you mean eliminating it. This could have very interesting consequence on the housing market.

      Overall, AMT needs to be eliminated as part of a comprehensive tax reform package

    • think4yourself

      @ JazzPony – sorry, I would phase out the mortgage interest deduction. This is a subsidy for the benefit of the real estate and financial services industry. As mentioned in the article Great Britian does not have a mortgage deduction and has roughly the same homeownership rates as we do. It does is not encourage homeownership, it encourages increasing debt. Once you start to pay your house down you lose the deduction. So it encourages more debt, more refinance, not building a real estate asset. In my business (commercial finance) I routinely see people who have incomes of $50K – $75K with mortgage interest deductions of $40K – $50K (prudence would be 25% of your income to housing). It encourages bad habits not good ones.

      It also discriminates against renters. If you are a person who has charitable giving, in most cases it’s not enough to qualify for a Schedule A deduction on your taxes unless you also are taking the mortgage interest deduction.

      I would rather eliminate the mortgage deduction but increase the standard deduction. I would get away from gov’t sponsored engineering to increase homeownership. That was one of the factors that led to the real estate collapse.

  • valkayec

    I agree with Mr. Frum’s column, although in the end where policy meets legislation we may disagree on how to accomplish the agreed upon end goal. And right now the primary end goal should be economic recovery: encouraging private sector growth, entrepreneurship, and employment growth. And every policy should be measured by how it impacts actual (not mythologized) GDP, employment, and the health and welfare of the American people.

  • jamesj

    “That’s how student radicals think — not conservatives.”

    A fucking MEN.

  • NRA Liberal

    There might be some difference between Frum and a Blue Dog Dem, but I couldn’t tell you what it was.

    • balconesfault

      Blue Dog Dems support/vote for political candidates who are receptive to their ideology and will work with them on issues.

      Frum seems determined to support/vote for political candidates who have no interest in what he has to say.

      Oh sure – Frum will definitely support a Huntsman or some other moderate during the primary – but given a Tea Partier or a Blue Dog in the general election, Frum’s visceral reaction againast Dems will get him to vote for the former.

  • TerryF98

    Republican values.!

    Still proud of your party?

    “Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity is sending absentee ballots to Democrats in at least two Wisconsin state Senate recall districts with instructions to return the paperwork after the election date.

    The fliers, obtained by POLITICO, ask solidly Democratic voters to return ballots for the Aug. 9 election to the city clerk “before Aug. 11.”

    A Democrat on the ground in Wisconsin said the fliers were discovered to be hitting doors in District 2 and District 10 over the weekend.

    “These are people who are our 1′s in the voterfile who we already knew. They ain’t AFP members, that’s for damn sure,” the source said.”

  • armstp


    You are entirely right on all these comments. Too bad the discussion has been so distorted that everyone has lost sight of the real problem/issues and the deficit and debt is not the real problem

    According to the CBO’s projections if we can get the economy growing at at least 2.5% per year and the Bush tax cuts go away, then we should be back down to a deficit that is a more normalized 3% of GDP (it has averaged about 2.5% for the last 60 years). That is without making any draconian cuts.

    We can worry about actual spending cuts, if they are really needed, after the economy is more recovered say in 2 to 3 years. Medicare and Medicaid are the really only issue long-term and it is all about actual healthcare costs and inflation. After getting the economy growing and boosting jobs, the next priority should be healthcare inflation, which is by far the biggest problem in this country (part of it is demographic and part of it is a for-profit system that is not competitive, wastes a lot and screws customers).

    Taxes and spending levels are not the real problem. The government is spending only 23% of GDP compared to an OECD average of +40%, which means the U.S. already has an incredibly small government compared to others, even if you adjust for the different healthcare systems and state spending. If you look at actual discretionary spending, the U.S. has by far the lowest discretionary spending per GDP compared all other OECD countries. We also have the highest, by far, military spending of any OECD country. In fact, we spend as much on the military as all the other OECD countries put together. This country’s priorities are upsidedown.

    Republicans just want to destroy the system. It is all ideology. But, to what end? Do they really want no government? No spending on education, infrastructure, etc. No protection of health, food, the environment, etc. We are heading that way. I am not sure what that will achieve. Have the GOP even thought through what they want or where they want to go?

    The whole debate has been backwards. The question we should be asking is what do we want our government to do? And once we have answered that question we should then figure out how to pay for what we want? What we are doing is entirely backwards. You don’t cut government and then after the fact figure out what you want it to do.

    • valkayec

      armstp, I agree with you, except I think you miss something. A fairly significant faction within the GOP has determined what they want government to do. They want it to do as little as possible. A meme amongst the Tea Party is to shrink government down to its basic functions as stated in the Constitution: Congress, Justice, Executive, Military. Much of anything beyond those basics are anathema. The establishment, I think, would like to shrink government by eliminating many of the departments and associated spending from over the course of the last 40 or so years and send those functions back to the states. Unfortunately, the size and function discussion is not one that ever occurs.

      If people were really asked what they want government to do, the answers would probably shift from day to day. But it would help if reasonable, accurate, non-political descriptions and arguments were made about what government does and why it does those things. Right now, all we get is hyperbole and spin and talking points. That’s hardly a way to inform the public.

      • armstp

        Agreed. It is not about budgets or deficit or debt. Those are just the wedge issues to use to shrink government. It is all ideological. The GOP does not care about deficit and debt, only about shrinking government.

  • Banty

    “That’s how student radicals think — not conservatives.”

    Yep. It’s as if many of these people have just started to think about politics and economics, and were susceptible to the polemics of the extreme, and are caught up in the excitement of insurrection with their contemporaries. The Tea Party reminds me very much of the unthinking ardor of the Vietnam anti-war protests. I first believed in their cause, then, on having more contact with the movement, was repelled by the scarcity of thought, and that 80% of the motivation for individuals was just to be part of the crowd and on the scene.

    After that, I swang to the other side, becoming a Libertarian, until old man Experience taught me how the world really works, how individuals really operate, how social groups really operate, and moderated my outlook.

    I’ve wondered how many of the Tea Party folks actually had Vietnam war protesting in their background, and are re-living all that excitement. Never mind how much of the society they smash.

    • balconesfault

      I’ve wondered how many of the Tea Party folks actually had Vietnam war protesting in their background, and are re-living all that excitement. Never mind how much of the society they smash.

      I’ve long felt that a lot of the Vietnam war protestors had no real interest whatsoever in social justice or peace – they just didn’t like the idea of ending up in a jungle across the world for a year or so while the other guys shot at him. And I’ve long suspected that much of the worst violence of the anti-Vietnam had to do with these types.

      That would toggle in well with the “I’ve got mine, Jack” sentiment shown by many 50 and 60-something Tea Partiers.

  • Sinan

    David Frum continues to be the only sane voice on the right and for that all of us lefties should congratulate him for his bravery, honesty, integrity and intelligence. When you look at this list of items what comes to mind is pure American pragmatism supported by factual data, historical precedent and reasonable expectations about the future. He is basically an optimist just as the left is and that is why he has been expelled from the conservative movement. He actually believes that good times are possible if we work together, assemble the facts, agree on the outcomes and then haggle about strategies. This is the old GOP the one I grew up with and admired for their intellectual honesty. That party is gone partly thanks to the unholy bargain a naive Reagan made with the Moral Majority. Once that connection was sealed, this lunacy was inevitable. I could not stand Reagan but looking back on him from today, he looks like a liberal. What the hell happened to the GOP?

  • steven08817

    How can it be that a conservative like David frum can make this case but Barack Obama our so-called socialist president cannot?

  • Graychin

    “Fix the economy first, and the deficit will improve on its own.”

    That’s exactly right. But where did you get the silly idea that Congressional Republicans WANT to fix the economy, or bring down the unemployment rate? Can you point to even ONE act by CR’s that indicates any such intent?

    Just ONE?

    At least Mitch McConnell is honest – he admits that their #1 objective is to elect a Republican president next year. What better way to do that than to sabotage the economy and blame the damage on Obama?