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Reality check

January 18, 2013

In my first post on this blog I attempted to build a comprehensive case that one can of course have a rational view of the US economy and fiscal policy and simultaneously not endorse many of the main ideas espoused by Republican leaders. In that post I pointed out that Republicans who claim to be focused on the deficit are actually primarily concerned with low taxes and high defense spending. R.M. at The Economist agrees with that sentiment and first shares this great quote from a Matthew Yglesias column, which was actually referring to the group Fix the Debt, but is still applicable to Republican leaders:

“[I]f you saw a bunch of Quakers running around in a panic about the national debt pushing a plan to reduce the debt by cutting military spending, and then loudly objecting to all debt-reduction plans that don’t slash military spending you’d rapidly reach the conclusion that the Quakers don’t actually care about the national debt. They’re just pacifists”

and then R.M. further goes on to clarify why fixing the debt is rarely ever actually priority number one, and I broadly agree with this sentiment:

“Something similar is true of most members of Congress. They may like to think of themselves as deficit hawks and others as deficit doves; in fact, they are a motley crew of tax cutters, defence spenders, entitlement protectors and so on. That’s because tax cuts have a constituency (those who will benefit), entitlements have a constituency (those receiving them) and defence spending has a constituency (defence contractors and their rah-rah chorus). Fixing the deficit doesn’t really have a constituency, as nobody benefits directly. Even those voters who claim to be most concerned about the deficit are likely viewing it as a proxy for taxes, jobs or entitlements. Republicans, who tend to express more concern about deficits, often equate it to big government. But big governments have been run with small or no deficits, and small governments have been run with big deficits.”

I never actually believed that the crux of today’s fiscal debate is some kind misunderstanding as my first post seems to imply. Instead, I felt compelled to address the discussion with a certain naive tone because i believe it’s necessary to first tackle an idea on its merits before moving on to an ad hominem assault.


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