As the presidential race heats up, we’re getting a clearer and clearer look at the true priorities of mainstream conservative thought right now. As Paul Krugman points out, the emphasis on large and permanent tax cuts for the rich at all costs makes it clearer than ever that many leading Republicans simply don’t care about deficits.
It’s even more than that; many Republicans just don’t believe in budgeting at all. That’s counterintuitive, I know, given that we keep hearing that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility. But it’s true.
This morning Greg contrasted Congressional Republicans, who may not even successfully pass a tax cut for workers today, with the GOP presidential candidates, who are rolling out plans for huge, deficit-exploding tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans justify their support for the latter with fraudulent supply-side fantasies that tax cuts would pay for themselves.
The way to make sense of GOP positions on these issues is to understand that many Republicans reject the whole concept of budgeting in its most basic form. When they say they want to reduce the“deficit” they’re not talking, as everyone else is, about narrowing the difference between federal government receipts and expenditures. Rather, when they say something is exacerbating the deficit, it just means they want to do away with it, whether it’s spending on social programs or working class tax cuts. They simply don’t believe in budgeting, in the idea that a tax cut should be paired with a tax increase elsewhere or an expenditure should be paired with a spending cut elsewhere, unless that spending cut is targeting something they wanted to get rid of in the first place.
After all, can you think of a single meaningful Republican priority they’ve been prepared to sacrifice in order to lower the deficit — on either the spending or the tax side?
If you see things from that point of view, it explains a lot: it explains why the Gingrich and Perry tax cuts are embraced by a party that just spent a year obsessing about the “deficit,” and it explains GOP opposition to pay-as-you-go budget rules, and it explains why Republicans just could not accept the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates that ACA will reduce the deficit. Indeed, it explains Newt Gingrich’s idea of eliminating the CBO.
They don’t believe in trade-offs. They don’t believe in pay-fors. They don’t believe in budgeting.