The Hobbits win!

Brian Wesbury Contributor
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The Wall Street Journal editorial page has taken sides with the establishment … and Maureen Dowd. The WSJ editors are calling the newly elected conservative members of the House “Hobbits,” the name for the diminutive human creatures from J.R. Tolkien’s book The Lord of the Rings.

This is not a term of endearment. What the WSJ editors mean is that Tea Partiers live in a “fantasy world.” This isn’t much different from how the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd describes Tea Partiers. Dowd has used “alternative universe,” “eye of newt,” “witchcraft” and, of course, “Hobbit” in relation to the Tea Party.

Wow! These so-called “Tea Party conservatives” — the ones who engineered the largest landslide in House elections since 1948 — are being spit on by all sides.

The WSJ editors say that these Hobbits will empower Nancy Pelosi. They deride the Tea Partiers for a “pointless crusade” of “futile fiscal gestures.” The WSJ makes fun of them because they had a fantasy plan to make Obama capitulate, adding that, “This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees.” The editors want these conservatives focusing on budget reform (like getting rid of baseline budgeting), rather than a balanced-budget amendment.

All of this may seem like fun and games, but it really signals something more deeply interesting. It seems like our political process is trying to turn everyone into an establishment player. Even the WSJ editorial page, which was once a voice of true conservative change back in the 1980s and 1990s, has apparently slipped into this abyss.

After all, the founding fathers were Hobbits. They foresaw a new land, with new opportunity, free of the bondage of the past. Today’s WSJ editors would probably tell them their crusade was pointless and would backfire. Their efforts would end up giving the king more power.

Why bring up Angle and O’Donnell? Why not Dole and McCain, who were pounded in presidential elections? Does that not damage, and raise questions about, the Republican brand? It’s hypocritical to argue one and not the other. And why didn’t Republicans reform the budgeting process between 2003 and 2007, when they controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, instead of using their power to pass massive new spending plans like Medicare Part D? And, of course, the WSJ editorial page supported TARP and the first $180 billion stimulus bill back in 2008.

The newly elected conservatives did not vote for any of this. They say they were elected to clean it up. When called into Speaker Boehner’s office to get their arms twisted, they said, “I didn’t come here to be on a certain committee or get earmarks. You can’t buy my vote; you can only earn it by doing the right thing.” Whether you like their politics or not, you have to say, how refreshing! Moreover, they were rolled in the appropriations process shortly after they arrived on Capitol Hill. Boehner told them to trust him and then passed a smoke-and-mirrors budget. The conservatives said, “This will not happen again.”

And in the end, they won another impressive victory. The Reid-Boehner compromise bill has no tax hikes (a miracle), it trims spending growth over 10 years by about $2.5 trillion and it includes a promise of an up or down vote on a balanced-budget amendment.

The bill does not get the U.S. back to fiscal sanity overnight. It is only a mediocre start and conservatives will likely vote “no” and let the establishment (with Democrat votes) push the bill through.

But the Hobbits can be happy that this bill is an incremental movement in the right direction that would not have happened if it weren’t for the 2010 elections and their willingness to stand firm. Government spending as a share of GDP has stopped increasing and is now on a slight downward course for the first time since 2000. This will help economic growth, job creation and the stock market in the years ahead.

Way to go, Hobbits. Just don’t go back home yet. There will be another fight over spending during the budget process this fall. You will really be needed then. Don’t let them get you down. Embrace your inner Hobbit and keep ignoring the establishment humans who want you to get in line.

Brian S. Wesbury is the chief economist at First Trust Advisors, LP.