Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Mia Love's axing of programs good or bad for image?

Published: Sunday, July 15 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Fourth District congressional candidate Mia Love has suggested deep federal budget cuts reducing or eliminating numerous popular programs, including many in education and human services.

Ravell Call, Deseret News archives

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Utah weather is blistering hot. Politics in these dog days of summer is plenty warm, as well. Here are some of the issues raising the temperature:

Fourth District congressional candidate Mia Love has suggested deep federal budget cuts reducing or eliminating numerous popular programs, including many in education and human services. Was it a smart move or is Love begging for disaster?

Pignanelli: "I am an adventurer of a different sort: one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes." — Che Guevara. Democratic activists were delighted, while veteran Republican operatives were aghast, that Love would violate a cardinal rule in elections — providing details to promised budget cuts. This maneuver holds much risk … but some potential.

A clever opponent (Jim Matheson excels in this category) will utilize Love's meat ax approach (i.e. eliminating food stamps, school lunch subsidies, special education, college loans, etc., without touching the Defense Department) to paint her as an extremist beholden to tea-party wackiness. Further, a number of families and businesses in the 4th district have benefited from government programs that would be jeopardized under Love's proposals. This could be her undoing.

On the other hand, there is no better disciple of dramatic change to federal government spending than an immigrant woman of color whose parents refused most public assistance. Because Love is not your typical Republican male grousing about poor people, Matheson — and most likely his third-party supporters — must use caution in how they portray her. Also, the electorate in 2012 may appreciate a boldness in this race that other campaigns are not delivering. Matheson's commitment to the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction, and Love's militant slashing, will provide voters substance and fun.

Webb: Love has provided a nice glimpse of the pain required to make a dent in current deficit spending and the unfathomable federal debt. Honesty is considered a virtue, except in politics. Most Utahns certainly agree, in theory, that we're on the verge of fiscal disaster, with the federal government borrowing, day after day, nearly 40 cents of every dollar it spends. We are literally destroying the futures of our children and grandchildren, leaving them a Greece-like debt burden that will lead to default, sky-high joblessness, business failures and hopelessness.

The problem is, cutting spending is so painful, it's nearly impossible, as is demonstrated by the liberal uproar over Love's budget recommendations. Every federal program has an enormous constituency. Reducing borrowing and cutting budgets will hurt millions of people, including babies, school children and the sick and elderly. Most Americans are feeding at the federal trough in some way, and everyone wants to cut the other guy. Meanwhile, Congress can't even make modest cuts in the most questionable of programs, let alone cuts where the real money is — Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and the military.

So Democrats will thrash Love for being honest. Congress, even if Republicans win control, isn't going to make those cuts. But Republicans will at least gradually slow spending, while Democrats will buy voters by growing government ever larger until doomsday hits.

Jon Huntsman Jr. is criticizing his Republican Party. Is he laying the foundation for a third party 2016 candidacy?

Webb: Absolutely. If the two parties in power continue at loggerheads, with dysfunctional, gridlocked, highly ideological government dominating Washington (a dream scenario for lobbyists like Frank), and if voter disgust continues to build, then Huntsman will be there to lead a new mainstream party.

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