Criticism Deficit Domestic issues Fiscal Crisis Politics The Opinionsphere

Rooting for a Fiscal Catastrophe (cont.)

[digg-reddit-me]Jonathan Chait is damn near poetic in his frustration at the dogmatic refusal of the right wing or the Republican Party to address the coming fiscal crisis:

[T]he conservative movement’s quasi-religious fidelity to tax cuts made it unable to advance even its own ideological self-interest.

The upcoming fiscal summit is a good example. The basic shape of the deal is that, in order to bring revenues into line with spending, Democrats will accept some spending cuts and Republicans will accept some tax hikes. By reducing spending, this will decrease the size of government. I can see why liberals would object — they’re being asked to sacrifice the liberal goal of a more expansive government in order to achieve the non-ideological goal of preventing a fiscal meltdown. Conservatives ought to be ecstatic — they could achieve both an ideological goal (reducing the size of government by reducing spending) and a non-ideological goal (preventing the fiscal meltdown.) Tax hikes are not really a concession, since deficit spending that would occur without such a deal merely represents deferred taxation.

The conservative reaction has been to refuse to engage the premise altogether.

My only disagreement would be that it is not a liberal goal to create a more expansive government. Liberals do not want government for government’s sake. They are not in favor of adopting a state religion; they don’t want government intervening in people’s sex lives; they don’t want government enforcing christianist values; rather, liberals tend to see government as a necessary tool to address certain problems. Chait otherwise acknowledges this. But it ruins the nice construction he has created — because liberals actually could achieve one of their main goals through this deficit commission: They make government more sustainable, responsible, and effective.

The right wing has adopted a view that the government is the opposite of all these things — that it is not and cannot be sustainable, responsible, or effective; therefore to justify and prove their belief is true, they now oppose any attempts to make government sustainable, responsible, or effective. They are not Cassandras shouting about a coming catastrophe they claim to be; rather Republicans are rooting for a fiscal catastrophe and trying to do whatever they can to ensure this catastrophe occurs, in the hope that it will wipe out the programs they hate but lack the popular support or cojones to actually cut themselves.

[Image by NASA.]

One reply on “Rooting for a Fiscal Catastrophe (cont.)”

It’s amazing how even conservatives who are obsessed with politics, who have strong opinions about everything, who treat every decision made in government as life or death, can go on believing that they are in favor of cutting government spending with such a vague notion of what they would actually cut. The conservative/libertarian I spend the most time arguing with even assured me that he would list what ideas he had for eliminating the deficit- breaking down the numbers precisely, only to later come up with a half-hearted list of proposals that would almost certainly leave us with a much larger deficit: (“Cut unemployment insurance”, “fine any doctor caught illegally over-billing Medicare or Medicaid”, “Review waste in the pentagon budget”, “Review the federal highway program”, “War surtax (under the stipulation that it must be a non-progressive tax”, “FairTax”, “Direct excess TARP funds to paying off deficit”, “Permanently lock-in Bush tax cuts (to improve the economy)”, “End the War on Drugs”, “Evaluate Medicare costs by changing how it is paid for and making people pay more money upfront”). I mean, it’s just insane. It’s just denial of reality.

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