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The Pledge To America: Deja Vu All Over Again

The Republican Party's new "Pledge To America" is not what you'd call a surprise. It's a reprise of every theme of Republican economic policy-making the party has followed for 20 years, since the conservative wing rejected George H.W. Bush's deficit reduction deal and seized control of the party. Since then, the Republican program has consisted of a combination of specific, detailed plans to increase the deficit alongside vague assertions of intent to reduce it.

The Pledge To America fulminates against debt, but it should be read as a plan to explode debt through the ceiling. It would make permanent all the Bush tax cuts, at a cost of trillions. It would add new business tax cuts on top of those. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act, at massive long-term fiscal cost. (Republicans are already planning to undermine many of the cost-saving features of the bill.)

On the opposite side of the scale, you have a handful of symbolic measures, like cutting Congress's budget. The big money "saving" measure is a cap on non-defense discretionary spending. This is a hoary tool for pretending you plan to make serious cuts when you do not. "Domestic discretionary spending" is a popular category to target because it is a collection of programs, not an individual program, like Social Security. But when the programs to be cut are given names, like "food safety inspectors" or "the Coast Guard," then the will to cut those programs inevitably (and, usually, correctly) disappears.

Republicans keep running on platforms consisting of specified measures to increase the deficit and unspecified pledges to reduce it. Inevitably, they fail to reduce it. Then the party faithful decide the problem was leaders who lacked true conviction, and so the new leaders promise to mend their ways. Then they do the same thing all over again.

RELATED: Alexander Hart on those lying Republican graphs.

ALSO RELATED: Jonathan Cohn on the GOP's phony pledge on health care.