Tuesday, February 13, 2018


This morning on NPR, Rachel Martin talked to Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation about the Republican approach to the budget and the rising deficits that are certain to result -- and, maddeningly, the tax cut signed into law by President Trump (whom Moore advises) was never mentioned once.

In a separate segment, Steve Inskeep talked to reporter Tamara Keith about the White House's debt-drenched budget proposal. Inskeep did mention the tax cuts -- but he also described the (obviously correct) belief that Republicans run up debt when they're in charge and then demand austerity when Democrats are in charge as a "conspiracy theory." Here's what he said to Keith. Notice how he weighs the "conspiracy theory" and then dismisses it:
Okay, so let's figure out if there is some larger strategy here, which is -- it's widely felt in some circles that there is. First, Republicans would pass a big tax cut, the deficit gets much larger, and then you say, "Oh wow, we need to cut government." I mean, that the fear, the conspiracy theory. But I think you're telling me that the White House is not even interested in the cutting-government part for the most part.

I wish the Republican approach to the budget, which as Jonathan Chait and others have said has been consistent for decades, were clear to average Americans: Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy and hate the social safety net, so they cut taxes and run up debt whenever they're in power, then demand belt-tightening whenever Democrats are in power (because the debt they've increased is so high). But even if only a partial truth is getting through, that might help Democrats.

I'm seeing more and more reports (including the first one linked above) that acknowledge the hypocrisy without explaining its purpose. The narrative is that Republicans are free spenders when they're in charge and then demand cuts to social programs when Democrats are in charge because they want to be mean to Democrats, not because they have a long-term goal of forcing social spending cuts. The narrative also says that Republicans spend more than they take in when they're in charge not because they want to induce a debt crisis, but because they like to spend like drunken sailors, just the way they say Democrats do.

I don't think it's a bad thing if Republican voters think spending is excessive now because Republicans are spendthrifts. Republicans in government may be utterly cynical about deficits and debt, but Republican voters aren't. They hate deficits and debt. Even the partial truth in the media narrative will probably inspire a number of them not to turn out to vote Republican in November.

I'd like Democrats to find a way to run issue ads attacking incumbent Republicans for running up the debt. The ads should be completely separate from Democratic campaign ads, and should come from separate groups. They should use Republican-style language and say nothing about the election or the Democratic candidate. Just ratfuck the Republicans with their own rhetoric about fiscal restraint.

That might help get Democrats elected, because GOP voters aren't in on the GOP scheme.

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