Who’s Fiscally Responsible Now, Fool?

Jonathan Bernstein claims:

The truth of that matter is that for at least twenty years, and really more like thirty-five years, the Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility and the Republicans are the party of deficits.


My guess?  If Obama is reelected with solid Democratic majorities in Congress, and the economy is reasonably strong, there’s a good chance that there will be a deficit reduction plan similar in spirit to the 1993 and 1990 packages, and it will pass without any Republican support.  There’s also a good chance of further deficit-reducing health care reform, including the deficit-reducing public option.

On the other hand, if Republicans win back Congress and the White House in 2012, I expect cosmetic spending cuts along with significant tax cuts, yielding larger deficits (and I wouldn’t bet heavily on net spending cuts).  As I’ve said before, I’m not advocating one way or another on this — I’m not a deficit hawk, myself.  But it seems clear to me that the path to deficit reduction for those who do care about it is Democratic control, rather than hoping for a grand bargain that in effect asks pro-deficit Republicans to surrender to anti-deficit Democrats.

This seems about right, if you have a clear definition of ‘”fiscal responsibility.” I would posit that to be fiscally responsible is to take debt and deficit strongly in consideration and attempt to offset spending with some kind of revenue increase. The Clinton tax increases attempted; Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mostly pays for itself with spending cuts here, inefficiency cuts there and revenue increasing measures everywhere.

Fiscal irresponsibility is passing legislation without consideration of debt or the deficit.  Bush II’s tax cuts, two wars, and Medicare expansion were not paid for or offset with other spending cuts. Even worse, Republicans and conservatives can’t point to Bush’s tax cuts as an attempt to increase revenue, which is a false belief Republicans espouse. Medicare Part D’s long-term (75 year) liability after it was enacted was $7.2 trillion. The Bush administration didn’t even include the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in their budgets.

President Obama has continued these wars, however, and has continued in the tradition of not really finding a way to pay for them. There really is no excuse for this, whatsoever, and the wars should be either ended or at least shrunk to insignificance unless someone can explain how any of this will pay off. The only thing I can think of, at all, is trying to stave off Al Qaeda getting its hands on a nuclear weapon. The likeliest place for the terrorist group to get a nuclear weapon is in Pakistan (Iran is still working on their nuclear capability) which already has nukes and hasn’t joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There are groups in Pakistan which sympathize with Al Qaeda and may be willing to share some lovely nukular trinkets to send our way. It’s understandable that Obama  would want to continue with the war in Afghanistan—where a more stable region will be less susceptible to the terrorist group that was settling within its borders while we played in Iraq. The war in Iraq, however, was entirely and completely irresponsible and a waste.

I think a friend of mine said it best on Twitter: “What I wish is that we had a viable liberal party that favored markets — instead of just giving them lip service. I’m actually pretty sure republicans have no idea what markets are, and cringe whenever they claim to be supporting "free markets.”

Quite right: both parties suck, in the end. One of them at least pretends to care.


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