I always look forward to Mondays and Fridays because Paul Krugman has a column on those days. Even after all these years of reading him, he still has much to offer about what is going on in the world. And this morning, he put together a number of pieces about why our economy is in the mess that it is in. This probably won’t come as a shock to readers of this blog, but it is still edifying.
He offered up a great way to think about government debt. If you look at the ten presidents who served from World War II up until Obama, only three left office with more debt than they entered with. Who were those three? Reagan, Bush Sr, and Bush Jr, of course! And what do they have in common? They are modern Republicans: people who don’t want to make the government a meaner, leaner fighting machine. They want to destroy it. Remember the Grover Norquist quote, “Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub”? That’s what they want.
Or at least, that’s what they claim to want. The truth is that they are just children. When they aren’t in power, they don’t want the government to do anything. When they are in power, they want the government to do all kinds of things (mostly for the rich) and they don’t want the government to pay for it. Krugman sums up this philosophy as it now stands:
Krugman doesn’t really get into this, but there is another issue. The conservatives use budget deficits as a cudgel. A balanced budget, of course, depends upon two things: spending and income. They are always for cutting income—while in power or not. But they are only for decreasing spending when they are not in power because of… the budget deficit! This all goes back to my last article: conservatives don’t believe in economics or any other science, except in as much as it justifies them doing what they were going to do anyway.
It’s all shameful. The question is whether the people will ever figure it out. I fear that by 2016, the people will think, “The Democrats have had their go; it’s time to let the Republicans try.” And I know what we will get: huge tax cuts and a ballooning deficit. And we’ll likely also have a vice-president to assure us that deficits don’t matter. At least until a Democrat is president again.