Monday, October 01, 2007

Do As I Promise, Not As I Do

Leave it to New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg to put things in perspective:
Bloomberg earlier gave a speech to the opposition Conservative Party's annual conference in Blackpool and took aim at conservative American politicians who ran up budget deficits.

"It seems to me that the Conservative Party in the UK is much more fiscally conservative than many American politicians who call themselves conservative," he said.

"Too many of them want to run up enormous deficits and hope that some way, somehow -- someone else will pay for it. That's not conservatism, that's alchemy, or if you like, lunacy."
Or, create a problem, then pray it goes away.

But Mayor Mike's comments got me to thinking: why is it that Republicans and particularly conservatives, can't keep their peckers in their pants when it comes to running up a bar tab the size of Montana (or a national debt the size of, literally, China)?

After all, conservatives are supposed to be all about fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, and restraint (of the unfun kind), and yet the last three conservative Presidents have run up massive Federal deficits.

There's a school of thought that says by running up these deficits, conservatives can choke off the money for discretionary spending programs, like Medicaid or welfare or mass transit grants, and to a degree, there's some truth: we probably would have had smaller budget surpluses under Bill Clinton (Greatest. President. Ever.) if we hadn't reformed welfare and cut some of the bloat out of that bureaucracy.

But Clinton's presidency also points out the folly of that plan: unless you can persuade the vast majority...not the majority, the vast majority...of the uselessness of a particular entitlement, all that will happen is a) the entitlement will get funded through deficit spending or b) you're going to have people agreeing to a tax hike to pay for it.

No one objected to Clinton's tax hikes after the fact, because Clinton's tax hikes were directly linked (perhaps justifiably, perhaps not) to the booming economy of the 90s, where Reagan and both Bush's have tax cuts that led nearly directly to recession and even economic depression.

Despite increased Federal spending, something that should mitigate economic slowdowns. Thus you have ballooning deficits, since economic slowdowns produce even less tax revenue than anticipated.

One possible reason, exogenous to any economic or political theory we might examine this issue of conservatives and ballooning deficits, is a psychological one: there are very few fiscally conservative Republicans who had to "come up through the ranks," so to speak, who actually had to scrape from paycheck to paycheck to pay off a mortgage.

And who's businesses always had a bail out at the dead end of the street.

Let that last thought sink in for a moment.

And now let me emphasize this next point:
Don't you think it's odd that the men who have made the most of the American dream, the Bloombergs, the Buffetts, the Gates', the ones who started from the ground up with a business, and struggled and perservered without a hand out, without Daddybucks behind them, are fairly liberal people?
And then there's George W. Bush: a man who has failed at each and every business he's ever run, a man who's had to have handout after handout from the bin Laden family, from the people of the state of Texas, from James R. Bath, from his daddy.

Are we seeing a pattern here? An entirely paternalistic concept-- to let your boy run a business into the ground, then pay off his mistakes-- has become national policy for an entire party.

And we're Daddybigbucks, backing these assholes.