Are Republicans really further to the right?

A favorite theme on the left is that the Republican Party, the Tea Party, and conservatives in general are “far to the right” relative to their brethren of the past. See E.J. Dionne’s national perspective here and a local perspective here (March 15 post).

I’ve always had problems with the left-right paradigm as it doesn’t adequately differentiate between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. Nor does it measure adherence to the US Constitution. This political quiz does a much better job.

Anyway, when it comes to fiscal issues (assuming that “right” means limited government), it seems hard to claim that many in Congress are on the “far right.” Back in 2000, the US federal government was indebted to the tune of $5.6 trillion and the federal budget was $1.8 trillion. Today, the federal debt is $13.5 trillion and the annual budget is $3.8 trillion (more than double what it was 10 years ago).

Aside from Ron Paul, I haven’t seen ANYONE in Congress of either party far enough to the “right” to propose immediately shrinking the sizes of the federal budget and the debt to anything like what it was at the end of the Clinton Administration. So, at least in fiscal terms, NO ONE in Washington (save Dr. Paul) is to the “right” of Bill Clinton who Dionne once called “progressive.”

Perhaps the “right” is more socially-conservative than it was in the past. I don’t know, but by any reasonable measure, the “right” today is not further right than it was in some halcyon (in Dionne’s view) past.