Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Guns v. Butter: How Bush's fiscal policy has hurt it's ability to effect foreign policy

Via Andrew Sullivan, I just read an article which explains how Bush's reckless spending for fluff projects in a time of war has made us so terribly vulnerable in our foreign policy. Please read the Irving Stelzer article. He makes great points. The bottom line is that it seems that no one, either Republican or Democrat, seems to have what it takes to fight this war. The amount of money that the government is in debt for is truly staggering. And why should it be celebrated that we cut the deficit? I think the problem is people conflate the words debt and deficit. The debt is the amount of money the US owes other nations, in total. The deficit is the shortfall between the amount of revenue that comes in in any given year, and the federal budget for that year. Except in times of extreme crisis, there never should even be a $1 deficit, if Congress is committed to spending only what it has. Under Clinton, there were budget surpluses, which did not mean that America was debt free. Rather, it meant that less money went out in a given year than went out. Bush has since reversed this. Am I taking crazy pills? Why are Republicans, the party traditionally of fiscal conservatism, celebrating a deficit of even $1? (and in this case, the deficit is hundreds of billions of dollars) This directly impacts out national security. We owe untold billions to China, and we are unable to pressure them economically to act against North Korea, which is clearly the necessary step we have to take to constrain this threat. By being fiscally irresponsible, Bush and the Republicans have put America at risk. I honestly believe the only way to reign this in is to have the Dems take the House and/or Senate in November. (no matter how repugnant some of the Dem supporters may be (a recent example being the outing of a gay Republican that was cheered on by Dems). In any case, if the Dems prove to be a shonda, they will pay for it in 2008. Gosh I love any excuse to insert the word "shonda" (Yiddish for "shame") into a sentence!


Austin Cline said...

Why are Republicans, the party traditionally of fiscal conservatism, celebrating a deficit of even $1?

Party of fiscal conservatism? The Republicans are the party of conservatism, and in the grand scheme of conservatism the "fiscal" part rarely plays a primary role. Republicans have always been just as big at spending as Democrats — it's merely that they favor spending the money on different things. Although there are few True Believers in the ideology of "smaller government," most conservatives have simply used that label as a way of attacking government programs favored by Democrats without actually having to name them and take a specific stand on some specific program.

Through the 60s and 70s Democrats retained power in the House and Senate in large part because they kept backing popular programs. Republicans couldn't attack those programs head-on with much success, so they created the "smaller government" mantra to basically go around the back. Most people can think of government programs they dislike and would like to see ended, but everyone would come up with a different list (not unlike how everyone opposes politicians who engage in pork-barrel spending, except when it's their politician doing it - in that case, they are simply looking out for their constituents' best interests).

This effectively prevents creating a majority against a single program or a single group of programs. Anyone who campaigns against specific programs risks alienating too many voters. It's much more effective to keep repeating "smaller government" and "cut the waste," which lets voters fill in the blank spaces on their own. Voters imagine that the politician opposes the same programs they do. In some cases, that politician may even vote against some of those programs — but they'll turn around and vote in favor of different ones.

Conservatism is all about "conserving" — conserving traditional morals, values, power structures, institutions, privileges, etc. If that is aided by cutting government spending for a program that undermines tradition, they'll do it. If that is aided instead by spending government money for a program that supports tradition (like sending more FBI agents to raid companies that make adult films, or sending out undercover cops to buy vibrators), they'll do that.

Red Tulips said...

austin cline:

WOW! You perfectly summed up the problem with the label of "conservatism" in a nutshell! Great comment, and thanks for stopping by! I 100% agree with you!

Thomas Forsyth said...

Austin Cline> Count me as one of those rare "true belivers". While I would consider myself a conservative (in the way any male under 30 who wears a three-piece suit and bowtie is), the term libertarian is more applicable. At 18, I was so excited about voting that I regsitered a week before I turned 18 (that was ok as no elections would occur until after my 18th birthday), and just like my father and his father, I registered as a Republican (of course my father and grandfather started as Democrats, since we were all from New Orleans). While I was more socially conservative back then, my father and his father were strictly fiscal, as my father was one of Barry's boys, and his father switched party affiliation back in the 40s in New Orleans, undoubtedly due to his hatred for Huey Long, a detestable bastard, and possibly due to any reservations about the New Deal (of course he died 5 years before I was born so I can never aks his opinions).

In reading an updatd version of P.J. O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores, he blasted the Republicans for increasing spending beyond even the Democrats' level, and of course my own dismay with my former party is shared by like-minded thinkers like John Stossel and Larry Elder, who did not selectively go after programs, but were critical of how so many Americans feed at the trough of entitlement, including the middle and upper-classes. Another person I liked was Martin Gross who wrote books about Govenrment wastefulness and had solutions for the problem, but it is doubtful that anyone will enforce his ideas.

In the alst few years, I dropped my affiliation with the Republican party, though I briefly registered as one when in Utica for a few months, but only because the GOP is dominant there, for the time being. In the upcoming election, I see the competitive House seats mostly going to conservative and moderate Democrats, and the Blue Dogs are passionate about the deficit and National Debt, plus they may be willing to chop up a few of their own party's sacred cows in the process.

I also see the problems of Georeg W Bush as a perverse afterbirth of the vast increases in government size and spending over the last 70 years (some was absolutely necessary but should have ended as soon as WWII saved our economy). The expansion of federal power and surrender of authority to the Executive Branch (Gulf of Tonkin, etc). Hopefully, the Democrats will learn a lesson from this and work to reduce the size of Government to GDP and restoring a balance of power between the three branches. I'm not expecting a return to the days of Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge, but I also know that the Dems won't bring abck 90% tax brackets or turn us into Sweden, and we won't have Pierre Trudeau either.

I am also glad that America has nothing as bad as the NDP in power.

Red Tulips> Perosnally, I would like to take back the label of conservative from the current people using it.