Commentary: Republicans' Fiscal Hypocrisy Horror Show

Feb 9, 2018

Those of us of a certain age recall when Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. They were guys who wore horn rimmed glasses, charcoal suits and skinny ties and went to the Rotary and Lions. On Sunday mornings, they were in church or on the golf course. They all liked Ike, except for a few National Review-reading conservatives who wanted smaller government and thought Eisenhower was running  a “Dime-store New Deal.”

If you think the GOP still cares about government spending and deficits, you believe elephants can fly. As the New York Times reported this morning, “big government is officially back in style.”

Congress approved a budget spending agreement that blows through the spending limits enacted in 2011, when Democrat Barack Obama was in the White House. This deal produced $300 billion in spending on military and domestic programs over the next two years. That is in addition to the recent $1.5 trillion tax cut skewed toward the wealthy.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a small government libertarian, put his party’s hypocrisy in stark  context. He delayed the vote, saying “the reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot. I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, “how come you were against President Obama’s deficits and then how come your for Republican deficits.”

The Republican hypocrisy drips from these measures. In 2011, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, delivered a report filled with alarming warnings about looming deficits. “The United States is facing a crushing burden of debt,” it declared. Ryan stated that the deficits might even “capsize” the economy.

The U.S. economy is healthy, much more so than when Ryan issued his warning. At that time, the economy was emerging from a serious recession. Now, with relatively full employment, this would be a good time to be careful with government spending and even pay down the debt. “The boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity at the treasury,’’ wrote John Maynard Keynes.

Democrats don’t control either chamber of Congress. There is a Republican in the White House. But now that Obama is history, Republicans think deficits are fine, so long as they benefit their donor class of fat cats.

It’s easy to blame dysfunction in Washington, D.C. on both parties. That may have been an honest criticism when Obama was president now and Republicans controlled Congress. Now that Republicans have the White House and the House and Senate, they shouldn’t be allowed to escape responsibility.

What they are doing is programming the government to fail. U.S. Government debt as far as the eye can see. It will be borne by younger generations in increased taxes and lost opportunity. As economist Paul Krugman, a NY Times columnist put it,” This is all about Republican bad faith. Everything they said about the budget, every step of the way, was fraudulent.”