Sunday, January 23, 2011

“Starving the Beast,” a Conservative Catastrophe

When it comes to the US budget and rising deficit, there’s only one narrative that people talk about: conservatives/Republicans want to spend less and liberals/Democrats want to spend more. We hear repeatedly, time and time again, that Democrats are the reason we are currently 14 trillion dollars in debt.

However, our debt woes can be traced not to liberal Democrats or to government welfare programs, but to a little known and even less understood concept of Republican policy known colloquially as “starving the beast.”

The concept is this: the government, under Republicans, gives out enormous “tax cuts,” which largely go to the mega-wealthy. Besides widening the gap between the rich and the middle class (and damn near obliterating the latter completely), this creates a budget crisis which “starves” the government (aka, “the beast”) of its funds.

The idea is, by giving back billions of dollars in taxes, the government can’t spend it. In actual practice, however, the government just spends the money they don’t have and in the process, we as a nation incur the debt.

But why? Why would the government spend more money than it collects in taxes? Is this some irresponsible, liberal conspiracy? Quite the contrary, it’s “Reaganomics,” or what George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics.”

It “works” quite simply. When a Republican is in power, they give huge tax cuts and incur debt while not cutting essential services. As an added bonus, the next president has to raise taxes. This works out great for Republicans when the next president is a Democrat, but didn’t work so well for the first Bush, who had to break his “read my lips” promise and raise taxes or risk being completely irresponsible. In order to do the right thing, you piss off the populace by “increasing taxes” (actually the same without the cuts) to pay for the taxes cuts of the previous administration.

Before Reagan, Republicans tended to run balanced or surplus budgets which paid for themselves. Republicans used to be the fiscally responsible party, but that mantle has been picked up by the Democrats. Clinton was the most recent president since Reagan to sign off on a surplus budget, and thanks to the enormous debt and astronomical interest payments on said debt, he may be the last.

So why do Republicans get away with calling themselves “fiscally conservative?” Because Americans are too dumb to know better. We are not in debt because of irresponsibility, for the responsibility lies quite plainly in the deliberate actions of a particular party whch seeks to concentrate all power into the hands of the nobility.

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