Here’s a striking report today from Kelsey Snell and David Weigel:
Some of the most conservative members of Congress say they are ready to vote for a budget that would — at least on paper — balloon the deficit to more than $1 trillion by the end of the decade, all for the sake of eventually repealing the Affordable Care Act.In a dramatic reversal, many members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus said Thursday they are prepared later this month to support a budget measure that would explode the deficit and increase the public debt to more than $29.1 trillion by 2026, figures contained in the budget resolution itself.
But wait — isn’t it unconscionable to saddle our grandchildren with debt? Don’t these members of the Freedom Caucus believe with every fiber of their beings that deficits are evil and government must be made to live according to its means?
Just as we don’t have to wonder about the economic impact of the Republican program of upper-income tax cuts and deregulation — since it was tested between the years 2001 and 2008 and proved to be an extraordinary failure — we don’t have to ask whether Republicans will stop caring about the deficit now that they’re in charge.
When George W. Bush was president, Republicans passed huge spending bills without trying to pay for them at all, like the Medicare prescription drug benefit — the cost was just added to the deficit, at the same time as they were slashing revenue with tax giveaways to the rich. Likewise, two wars that together cost trillions of dollars were just put on the tab. The result was that the deficit nearly quadrupled between Bush’s first year in office and his last, with nary a peep of dissent from Republicans. (It should be noted that after Bush left office with some of the worst approval ratings in history, many Republicans began saying he wasn’t a “true” conservative because he didn’t cut spending, though they somehow forgot to raise any such objections when he was in office.)
But as soon as Barack Obama came into the White House, Republicans began to cry that deficits were a plague, a poison, a crisis that demanded immediate action. Though nearly all the Republicans had happily supported a stimulus package put forward by the Bush administration in January 2008 to give a boost to the economy, in the face of the worst economic crisis in eighty years they stood firm against the Obama administration’s stimulus plan. And in the ensuing years, Democrats did what Republicans never do: paid for their spending, as they did with the Affordable Care Act, every penny of which was paid for with new taxes and spending cuts. In fact, the ACA wasn’t just paid for, it significantly reduced the deficit by lowering overall health costs.
In the next four years, you’re going to hear Republicans say just what the members of the Freedom Caucus are saying now: Sure, deficits are important and all, but we have more pressing things to worry about.
There will be other examples of naked hypocrisy coming from the Republicans, as well. If and when Trump calls for a big infrastructure spending measure — which his advisers have suggested might amount to a trillion dollars — Republicans will inevitably embrace it as a necessary job-creator and shot in the arm of the American economy. That’s despite the fact that for years President Obama has been begging them to pass an infrastructure bill, to no avail.
You can also be pretty sure that while Republicans currently agree with Trump that the American economy is a hellscape of boundless suffering and hopelessness, as soon as Trump takes office they’ll be talking about how wonderfully everything is going. The 15.6 million jobs that have been created since the Great Recession bottomed out in 2010, the unemployment rate below five percent, the strong wage growth — all of that progress that happened under Barack Obama will somehow be attributed to Donald Trump’s wisdom and leadership.
And those government data that describe the economy’s strength? Before they were “cooked,” but now they’ll be objective and irrefutable evidence of Trump’s achievement (until the economy goes south, of course, at which point they will revert to being lies concocted by biased bureaucrats).
All this is on top of all the policies that they supported until Barack Obama said he liked them, at which point they became the very essence of horrific statist oppression, from an individual health insurance mandate to Common Core to cap and trade.
The lesson of all this is that when you’re in the opposition you can say all kinds of things you don’t actually believe, but it’s when you have power that you reveal your true self. Republicans haven’t even taken power yet, and they’re already showing who they really are.