If you use this explanation as a secret decoder ring, it makes lots of otherwise goofy statements far more understandable. Two examples already today.
First, Suzy Khimm tweets:
Not sure why so many in Washington believe "short-term stimulus, long-term deficit reduction" is THE BIGGEST OXYMORON IN THE WORLD.This confuses Khimm because she's thinking in terms of regular deficit reduction, in which the goal is to minimize long-term federal revenues minus federal spending. But if the goal is actually to reduce any spending you don't want, then spending lots of money on stimulus is, by definition, bad for the deficit, full stop, end of story, doesn't matter what happens down the road. No, really, that's it. What matters is spending money you shouldn't spend. There's no "how to pay for it" in this way of thinking (which is why House Republicans get rid of PAYGO rules every time they take the majority). There's no long-term. It's just about spending money that you shouldn't, in their view, spend. That's a deficit violation. You can't make that up in the future, because you can't unspend what's already spent.
Second, Jonathan Chait catches a Andrew Ferguson claim -- it's actually an oft-repeated claim by Republicans -- that ACA will certainly cost a lot of money and therefore increase the deficit. Chait is not confused, because he understands the GOP war on budgeting; as he puts it:
[W]hat Ferguson is defending is the supposition that increasing the deficit is an inherent feature of any universal coverage scheme. This obviously is not the case, but his offhand statement is telling. They may debate over the particulars, but the particulars don’t ultimately matter. Conservatives just don’t want to lay out the resources to provide universal coverage.That is: what Ferguson calls "increasing the deficit" simply means spending money on stuff Ferguson doesn't like.
This works on the tax side, too -- yes, Republicans have a whole song-and-dance about supply side effects and cutting taxes to raise revenues, but when it comes right down to it they don't believe that the Bush or Reagan tax cuts increased the deficit because that's not what "the deficit" means to them.
There are some Republicans who actually talk about the real, revenues minus spending, deficit (I think Tom Coburn is one), but for the most part they really don't.