What to Cut?

As a fiscal conservative, and a street protest skeptic in all but the most extreme circumstances, I share the conflicted Tea Party reactions so eloquently expressed by Ross Douthat, Julian Sanchez, and Andrew Sullivan.

The main disagreement among them is whether those attending should have advanced a positive agenda for the particular government spending they want to cut. I think it’s impossible for a mass activist rally to accomplish anything that substantive — like I said, I’m a street protest skeptic — so I’ll defend those who attended against Andrew’s particular complaint, but I think he is broadly correct that the right needs to assert the specific spending it desires to cut to be taken seriously, and it’s got to be more sizable than Porkbusters (though I’m all for that project).

So how about it, right blogosphere? Let’s have an argument about what should be cut (the substance and what’s politically possible), and meanwhile we can test whether Daniel Larison is right about whether various strands of conservatives have anything to gain by engaging one another. This seems like the kind of “proposal-based” discussion that would be enriched by reader participation, especially if Andrew, Glenn Reynolds, The Corner bloggers, Hit&Run and others enlist their audiences. And just to make things interesting, JournoListers, I’ll solicit your help too — imagine how thoroughly you could embarrass the right blogosphere if your brain trust is better able to articulate ways to save the American taxpayer money!

My tentative nominees: spend trillions less on foreign wars of choice; take WFB’s advice — end a drug policy that includes military intervention in sundry foreign countries, billions in wasted military aid to dictators, and the costly imprisonment of countless non-violent offenders as part of a strategy that doesn’t even work; means test Social Security and Medicare; repeal prevailing wage mandates for government contracts; abolish public employee unions; lower costs at public universities by scaling back excess professorial research in the humanities, and put two-thirds of the saved man-hours into educating undergraduates; allow federal bureaucrats to anonymously submit egregious and otherwise unknown examples of government waste, and give them a sizable monetary reward should an act of Congress end the wasteful practice due to information they provided.

Okay, I’m going to stop before I get carried away and become Newt Gingrich.