Thursday, November 12, 2009

Very, Very Short Memories

More on the deficit.

You know, the theory that Congress is unable to tackle budget deficits makes some sense. But the reality is that deficits have basically been under control over the last, oh, half century or more with two exceptions: the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, in which the president strongly supported slashing tax revenues while dramatically increasing spending. So when we see this from Judd Gregg and other deficit hawks:
Conrad, Gregg, Cooper and others differ on how much authority Congress can yield to an outside panel — even one consisting of senators and House members. But they all agree Congress lacks the political wherewithal to make potentially drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, or raise taxes, in the name of fiscal responsibility.

“I don’t mind giving regular order a chance,” Gregg said. “But it’s had the chance for years.”
The important thing to remember is that when Congress (and Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton) did try to lower the deficit, they were entirely successful. Only when presidents (and Congress) choose higher deficits do we get higher deficits -- whether it's the current preference for higher short-term deficits as countercyclical weapons against a recession, or earlier Bush-era deficits as a choice of "all dessert, all the time" conservative politics.

Congress, as an institution, is perfectly capable of fiscal responsibility. Conservative Republicans? I'll believe it when I see it.


  1. I've always liked this graph....

  2. Yup. It's unfair to GHW Bush, though (assuming that you think deficits are a bad thing).


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