Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 14, 2010

EXPOSING THE RIGHT'S DEFICIT SHAM.... We talked last week about a trend that's hard to overlook: every time Democrats push legislation that lowers the deficit, Republican lawmakers and their conservative allies oppose it. Given that the right likes to pretend that deficit reduction is a top priority, it seems like there's a disconnect here.

This morning, Matt Yglesias goes further, trying to make it painfully obvious that, nonsensical rhetoric notwithstanding, conservatives really don't care about deficit reduction. Here's the easy-to-understand, five-point indictment:

1) There have been two presidents who were members of the modern conservative movement, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, and they both presided over massive increases in both present and projected deficits.

2) The major deficit reduction packages of the modern era, in 1990 and 1993, were both uniformly opposed by the conservative movement.

3) When the deficit was temporarily eliminated in the late-1990s, the mainstream conservative view was that this showed that the deficit was too low and needed to be increased via large tax cuts.

4) Senator Mitch McConnell says it's a uniform view in his caucus that tax cuts needn't be offset by other changes in spending.

5) The deficit reduction commission is having trouble because they think conservative politicians won't vote for any form of tax increase.

I'm trying to imagine what the conservative response might be to this -- and I'll look forward to seeing what they come up with -- but when looking for any evidence at all that the right is serious about deficit reduction, literally nothing comes to mind.

I'd add, by the way, that conservatives really only pretend to care when they're not in power. Before becoming president, Reagan said deficit reduction would a top priority. In office, that commitment was quickly cast aside. Before the 2000 race, Bush said a balanced budget was critically important to him. He then became the single most fiscally irresponsible president in American history.

Now that the right is out of power again, they look back with surprise. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently conceded when Republicans controlled the levers of power, "it was standard practice not to pay for things." But if voters give them another chance, this time will be different. Sure. Of course it will -- right after Republicans get those hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich secure for another decade.

The key here isn't just to point out GOP hypocrisy and record of abject failure, it's to remind the political world to stop buying into the nonsense. The conventional wisdom still, even now, accepts the notion that conservatives care about deficit reduction. They don't. They care about tax cuts, regardless of the fiscal consequences.

Fool me once, shame on you*. Fool me on a nearly daily basis over the course of several decades....

* fixed

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Republicans lie to get power. We know this, so pretending to be shocked is useless.

What are we going to do about it? The only good idea I can think of is moving to swing states (taking inspiration from the Free State Project and talking about this stuff to anyone who seems willing to listen. And then be ready for a strong "both sides do it" bias, of course.

Seriously, I'm open to ideas of what I can do to change this.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 14, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I do hope you realize that you have that incomplete last line backwards.

Posted by: Ken D. on July 14, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

"For me once, shame on me. Fool me on a nearly daily basis over the course of several decades...."

... shame on, me again?

Posted by: Ohioan on July 14, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, yes, Republicans are hypocrites. Nothing new there.

The Republicans will keep this crap up until Obama grows a pair. What's it going to take? When will the Democrats fight?

Posted by: Greg on July 14, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Lucy and the football will be an enduring metaphor.

Posted by: Mudge on July 14, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

...conservatives really only pretend to care when they're not in power...

Or when they control Congress and want to de-fund a Democratic administration, such as in the late 1990s.

Posted by: Grumpy on July 14, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me on a nearly daily basis over the course of several decades....

then I am a typical American (especially working class Republican) voter.

Posted by: Ian on July 14, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

The key is to get the rich to understand that it's in their own best interests to pay higher taxes. If they don't understand how close we were to apocalyptic meltdown then they need to. Their lifestyle will deteriorate drastically if the crazy assed repubs come to power again.
Returnimg to the 19th century isn't an option here. We have over 300million people in this country and finacial disaster would touch everybody.

Posted by: Gandalf on July 14, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Sedition, anti-American or hard-ball politics---whatever you call it--Republican filibuster tactics prevent effective action on all sorts of progressive bills. The Republicans want the economy to fail. They have an explicit strategy of keeping unemployment high through 2010 -- and they hope through 2012 -- in the theory that a bad economy will go against the majority party in the elections. Unfortunately, they are probably right.

Unless they break the filibuster, Democrats are Toast. What is lacking is the will to do so. It takes 50 Senate votes plus Biden and can be done any any time, occasional screeds to the contrary not withstanding. it's not a Constitutional or judicial issue. It's a Senate rule originally passed over 100 years ago by a then- normal-majority of Senators to bind future Senate sessions to a super-majority. Senate rules don't have to be changed at the beginning of a session. To say otherwise is like claiming the Magna Carta is invalid because it wasn't signed in 1200. Republicans will void it any day they need to once they have 51 Senate votes.

I and many other Progressives I know are no longer am interested in the excuses of the Democratic party and it's leadership, starting with Obama. A basket case economy benefits the Republicans and if the the Democrats are too stupid to not realize that then they deserve to be voted out of office in November. They need to do whatever it takes to ensure the economy doesn't stall for years, or worse reverse into a double dip recession. It has been clear for 18 months that the Republicans aren't engaging in debates in good faith. Recalcitrant Democrats need to be punished severely.

It's hard to see how continued Democratic majorities in Congress will make any difference unless they change their policies and break the filibuster. "Not very good, but better than GWB and the Republicans" is hardly a rousing political rallying cry.. Obama and Blue Dogs needs to be openly challenged by Progressives. Most of what Progressive's want today would have been supported by Nixon, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Ford, FDR, TR, Truman-- Hell, even Dewey. So don't give me BS about advocating left-wing Socialist policies.

I 'd sooner not drive the economy off a cliff.. But if my two options are to drive off the cliff at 100 MPH with Republicans vs driving off the cliff at 55 MPH witn Democrats, I'll take the former. I'd rather get the pain over with faster and give more hope of electing a real Democrat sooner. A crisis really should not be wasted.

Posted by: gbd on July 14, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

gbd - perhaps some legit points, but we should be talking aboutHOW THE REPUGS MANUFACTURE CONSENSUS

Posted by: steve on July 14, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

gbd - it's good that you have no position of power or responsibility.

Posted by: Rathskeller on July 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

I thought the whole point of the catfood commission was that it's supposed to make recommendations based on sound policy, not on what's politically possible. Instead we've got a commission to make sure that Republicans never have to vote against anything that might be popular. The commission is running interference for the Senate Republicans. This is working out well, isn't it?

Posted by: Bloix on July 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

As I recall, Bush the Younger's first argument for tax cut's (before 9/11) was that the operating surplus showed that "the 'Murican people are being overcharged, and I am here to get their money back for them!" The logical counter to this (as if logic matters!) is that the 'Murican people are now deadbeats, and need to cough up the money for the amount of government that they demand to receive. Unfortuantely, this is not an argument that anyone is going to be able to sell.

Gandalf is right, it's a mystery why the wealthy can't seem to understand that they are the ones that benefit the most from having a healthy, stable economy, and that paying a bit more as their fare share is going to benefit them in the end. You would think the tremendous losses in wealth during the debacle of the last two years would have gotten the point through to them.

Posted by: dcsusie on July 14, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

We have over 300million people in this country and finacial disaster would touch everybody. It wouldn't touch everybody. The question is, how many people would it touch? And how hard?

As it was for conservatives from the dawn of time, there are only two questions for the GOP.

How much can you take from the peasants and still not have to sleep with one eye open?

What can you give the peasants that's noisy and distracting enough to allow you to sleep with both eyes shut?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 14, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

It's a sham, alright - but that doesn't mean the GOP does not care about the deficit. They care about the deficit very much. They love it. They adore it. They revere it.

They put a lot of hard work into running up the deficit. It is central to their strategy. All the calls to cut Social Security and Medicare are not a consequence of the deficit - they are the very point of the deficit. David Stockman, Reagan's budget director, publicly acknowledged in the early 80s that the deficit was being deliberately run up in order to make it politically feasible to cut or eliminate popular social programs.

Now, speaking only for myself, I consider a deliberate strategy to weaken the economic health of the country in order to further a partisan political goal to be the height of treason.

But that's just me.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on July 14, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Cutting Taxes" is code for "shrink the government" (and drown it in the bathtub?)

-and "The government is too big" is code for a return to State's Rights. And SOME of us know what that means. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 14, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

It's different when your reasoning is faith based instead of data based. When I pointed out on another thread that Clinton raised taxes and balanced the budget while producing a vibrant economy, while W. Bush cut taxes and had the lowest job growth numbers in modern history, a know nothing conservative replied that there must be a time delay, so that Bush's economy was suffering from Clinton's tax increases, while at some point in the future the economy would be all milk and honey due to W.'s tax cuts. Frickin idoits.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on July 14, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

So don't give me BS about advocating left-wing Socialist policies.

My read is that most of the commenters here are strong advocates for "left-wing Socialist policies," which, btw, have consistently increased, measured by the percentage of federal funds going to job creation and social programs, over the past fifty years.

We just like to leave the crazy "let's drive off the cliff at 100 mph" stuff behind.

Posted by: cr on July 14, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Do words still mean anything in American politics? Money is all that talks anymore.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on July 14, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Cutting Taxes" is code for "shrink the government" (and drown it in the bathtub?)

The 21st century cannot progress until we bury the horrific legacy of the 20th century: nuclear weapons, factory-rolled cigarettes, and Grover Norquist.

Posted by: Grumpy on July 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

You forgot Dick Cheney's immortal comment: "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." This is the true Republican mantra, but they don't mind trotting out their anti-deficit rhetoric because there are conservative Democrats to whom deficits do matter.

Posted by: bc on July 14, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

How is it we're this far into the comment thread without anyone noting that this is an expression they have in Texas and maybe in Tennessee: "Fool me once, shame on...shame on you...Fool me twice...fullmah...can't get fooled again!"

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on July 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

from Digby: "The party in power is expected to do what's necessary to pass its agenda. If it can't, it is held responsible for the failure, not those who stopped them from doing it. This is particularly true in the present circumstance. The president blaming the "do nothing congress" only works when the congressional majority is of the opposition party. When it's your own party [AND you have a near-supermajority], you just look like a weak leader and people think the underdog Republicans are simply "playing the game" better and so deserve to "win."

Posted by: gdb on July 14, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK



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