05.24.2012 Policy Points

An Argument Born of Silence?

James Kwak of The Baseline Scenario wonder why the modern GOP can position itself as a party of fiscal responsibility when its policies promote fiscal profligacy. Kwak sees several reasons for that strange development.

… One is that many Americans reflexively associate large deficits with excessive spending, even though reductions in tax revenues have played just as big a role since George W. Bush became president. (Compare, for example, receipts and outlays in 2000 and 2011 as a percentage of GDP.) Then they associate excessive spending with Democrats, although the only president to reduce spending significantly in the past forty years was Bill Clinton. It turns out that if you repeat the same tired attack lines year after year—Democrats are all tax and spend liberals, for example—people believe them.

The other, more important reason why Republicans like talking about the national debt is that Democrats don’t have a good response. Sure, Democrats have lots of policy proposals, and theirs make a good deal more sense than the Republicans’; it was President Obama who proposed trillions of dollars in spending cuts and tax increases, which is what people supposedly want (according to opinion surveys, at least).

But most Democrats just don’t like talking about deficits and the national debt. They think it’s a distraction from talking about jobs and unemployment, or they think simply broaching the subject is succumbing to a vast right-wing conspiracy to slash entitlements, or both. The result is that there is no liberalprogressive position on the national debt….

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