David Frum

11.28.12

Why Fall Off the Fiscal Cliff When You Can Fly Off?

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What's the Republican future?

Brent Bozell recommends what might be called the Thelma & Louise option: why tumble off the fiscal cliff when you can press the accelerator and zoom off?

[I]f the GOP wakes up and decides that the principles they fought for during the campaign were more than empty political posturing, there is another option. … [T]wo of the biggest steps that Congress can take toward getting our fiscal house in order are: repealing ObamaCare’s gigantic insurance subsidies and repealing the individual mandate. According to the CBO, repealing ObamaCare’s insurance subsidies would save $150 billion in 2020 alone. Similarly, repealing the individual mandate would save $40 billion in 2020 alone. …

Either Republicans are serious about honoring their commitments, in which case they will accomplish this [i.e., repeal] through the power of the purse, or Republicans are not serious about their promises, and will ignore the solution. Either/or, no other options. No more excuses, no more rhetoric. No more meaningless half measures. Take the correct course and America will thank you for saving us from the coming disaster, or take the wrong course and co-own the disaster while being exposed as fraudulent to your constituents.

While Bozell's rhetoric is emphatic, his recommendation is not altogether clear, so let's decipher it.

Republicans don't have the power to repeal Obamacare. They don't have the power to pass budgets either: the concurrence of the Senate and the signature of the president are necessary to those. What they do have - and what is meant by the phrase "power of the purse" as Bozell uses it - is the power to refuse to appropriate any funds at all. The House, Bozell is saying, should threaten the re-elected president and the majority of the Senate that unless they abandon their commitments, Republicans will shut down the government altogether. On top of the automatic tax increases - on top of the ending of extended unemployment benefits - on top of the automatic sequester - Republicans should (Bozell urges) collapse the entire government of the United States until Obamacare is ended.

Whee!