Monday, January 28, 2013

Deficits Don't Really Matter To Conservatives



What if someone told you repeatedly that something mattered deeply to them - but it didn't?  And if Conservatives try to spin the old yarn that deficits matter, think again, as Jon Perr at Crooksandliars.com proves otherwise in his article, "Reagan Proved Deficits Don't Matter," and Kevin Drum writes in his article at Motherjones.com, "Republicans Care About Taxes and Spending, Not Deficits."

First, from Crooksandliars.com:

"Then came George W. Bush, who promised in his 2001 message to Congress:
"'At the end of those 10 years, we will have paid down all the debt that is available to retire. That is more debt repaid more quickly than has ever been repaid by any nation at any time in history.'
"Instead, President Bush produced red ink as far as the eye can see. After inheriting a federal budget in the black and CBO forecast of a $5.6 trillion surplus over 10 years, President George W. Bush quickly set about dismantling the progress made under Bill Clinton. Even with two unfunded wars and the similarly unpaid Medicare prescription drug benefit, Bush's $1.4 trillion tax cut in 2001, followed by a $550 billion second round in 2003, accounted for half of the yawning budget deficits he produced. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, if made permanent those Bush tax cuts if made permanent, would add more to the national debt over the next decade than the impact of Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, the stimulus and TARP - combined.



"During his presidency, Republicans in Congress voted seven times to raise the debt ceiling, the last to$11.3 trillion. By the time George W. Bush ambled out of the White House, he left his successor a $1.2 trillion budget deficit for 2009.

"David Leonhardt explained in 2009, adding, 'The economic growth under George W. Bush did not generate nearly enough tax revenue to pay for his agenda, which included tax cuts, the Iraq war, and Medicare prescription drug coverage.' That fall, former Reagan Treasury official Bruce Bartlett offered just that kind of honesty to the born again deficit virgins of his Republican Party. Noting that the FY2009 deficit of $1.4 trillion was solely due to lower tax revenues and not increased spending, Bartlett concluded:
"'I think there are grounds on which to criticize the Obama administration's anti-recession actions. But spending too much is not one of them. Indeed, based on this analysis, it is pretty obvious that spending - real spending on things like public works - has been grossly inadequate. The idea that Reagan-style tax cuts would have done anything is just nuts.'
"Which is exactly right. Thanks to the steep recession, as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and others have documented time and again, the overall federal tax burden as a percentage of GDP is now below 15%, 'levels that low have not been seen since 1950.' And as Jonathan Cohn and Paul Krugman each explained, it is not a mythical Obama 'spending binge' but the drastic loss of revenue combined with automatic increases in mandated safety net outlays that is producing the current budget gaps.



"Nevertheless, only now - with Democrat Barack Obama in the Oval Office - Republicans like John Boehnerwarn Americans that 'unsustainable debt and deficits threaten the prosperity of our children.' But despite their fear-mongering, the GOP would make the situation much, much worse. December's two year tax cut compromise will add $800 billion to the deficits this year and next. And by making the Bush tax cuts permanent and lowering the top rate to 25%, the Ryan budget just passed by the House would drain over $4 trillion from the U.S. Treasury.

"Back in June, Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse lamented the double-standard at work in the Republicans' posturing on the national debt:
"'I understand the point about the debt and the deficit and the spending,' said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). 'But to me, that doesn't have an enormous amount of credibility, because when President Clinton left office, he left an annual surplus... At the end of [George W. Bush's] term, we had $9 trillion in debt.'
"'We would have none of this if it hadn't been for the Republican debt orgy that they went through,' Whitehouse said.
"Apparently, Sheldon Whitehouse and his Democratic allies don't understand how this game works. As Cheney said, 'Reagan proved deficits don't matter.'

"Unless, of course, a Democrat is in the White House."



And in the companion piece we find that it's taxing and spending that Conservatives care about, NOT  deficits:

"Tim Geithner says, correctly, that we're actually pretty close to fixing our long-term deficit problems. He then suggests that since there's only a little more to be done, 'it should be relatively easy to reach an agreement.' Paul Krugman is not amused:

"'To say what should be obvious: Republicans don’t care about the deficit. They care about exploiting the deficit to pursue their goal of dismantling the social insurance system. They want a fiscal crisis; they need it; they’re enjoying it. I mean, how is “starve the beast” supposed to work? Precisely by creating a fiscal crisis, giving you an excuse to slash Social Security and Medicare.' 
"'The idea that they’re going to cheerfully accept a deal that will take the current deficit off the table as a scare story without doing major damage to the key social insurance programs, and then have a philosophical discussion about how we might change those programs over the longer term, is pure fantasy. That would amount to an admission of defeat on their part.' 
"'Now, maybe we will get that admission of defeat. But that’s what it will be — not a Grand Bargain between the parties, acting together in the nation’s interest.'



"Yep. Republicans haven't cared about the deficit for decades. They got a bit worried about it when Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut didn't pay for itself the way he promised, and this prompted them to reluctantly pass Reagan's 1982 tax increase. But they very quickly sent that 1982 bill down the memory hole, pretending to this day that Saint Ronnie never increased taxes. Since then, they've cared about deficits only when Democrats were in office.
"If I were a Republican, I'd latch onto deficits as an anti-spending tactic too. It works pretty well.

"That said, it's still worth keeping the truth in mind. What frustrates me isn't so much that Republicans do this—that's just politics—but that the press so routinely lets them get away with it. I understand the constraints they work under, but still. The difference between actual Republican priorities and claimed Republican priorities is so obvious that it hardly counts as editorializing to point it out."



While we waited for the Supreme Court Five to anoint George W. Bush, the "Judicial Coup de Etat" noted by Reverend Jesse Jackson, Richard Cheney idly noted that the surplus built up by President Clinton should either be reimbursed back to the taxpayers or that taxes be reduced until the surplus was to be used up.  That the surplus be applied to the deficit never crossed Cheney's mind because the underlying basis to Conservatism is retain profits and increase income by reducing taxes on the rich - nothing else.

And when we couple this evidence of the Conservatives lying to us, it's worth remembering Reagan idly musing to reporters that it would be nice if corporations weren't taxed.



It's easy to see now for even the most undereducated of voters to understand that all the bleating of the Conservatives about deficits was just that: mindless noise.  All of the other symbols of the GOP, "States' rights," "right to life," "personal responsibility," ad infinitum, are just smoke - nothing more, nothing less -  and the true agenda of Conservatives is antithetical to the basic premise of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution:  control of the country by the richest among us.  The noise is just camouflage to hide the true Conservative agenda from the voters.  The greediest among us, the Conservative leadership, cares nothing for issues beyond taxing and spending by others, not them.


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"A quotation at the right moment is like bread in a famine."

The Talmud


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