The Republicans like to run against Democrats by calling us “tax-and-spend liberals.” They also pretend to fiscal restraint and conservatism, competence and responsibility, supposedly in contrast to us. What’s become clearer to more and more Americans in the last 28 years is just how untrue this all is.
Anybody who gets into power in government has political or financial ‘debts’ to pay, support to buy, punishment to mete out, interests of their own to pursue, maybe even once in a while sincere attempts to do the right thing. We Democrats are supposedly averse to cutting programs – for the rich as well as for the poor – because we’re softies, or usually feel sensitive to cross-aisle criticism with an eye on re-election. In fact Democrats in Congress are frequently brutalized into cutting programs for the poor, rarely for the rich. But when we want to do more, we’re generally honest about the cost, and try to “pay as you go.” It’s cheaper that way: no years of interest piling up. But it’s politically costly unless it’s a ‘home run,’ and national Democrats haven’t hit many of those since the ’60s and ’70s.
Republicans, OTOH, have figured out a neat way to spend what they want. They borrow the money, cynically put the government, ie, you and me, into debt to finance their grand schemes usually for the rich and business, stockholders I mean – certainly not workers who do the work! This may be called BORROW-AND-SPEND. It ingeniously separates the issue of the proposal from the issue of paying for it, by years. And their beneficiaries are very grateful, and show it. Doubt me? Reagan was a master at it; the fact that Clinton left office with a huge surplus was little short of a miracle. But just as fast, W. and Co. have put us back into a deep hole with no bottom in sight.
But surely the chickens come home to roost eventually, you say? So much the better from the Republican perspective. Fiscal crisis makes it politically easier for them to get away with cutting help for the poor, needy, and workers; they’re definitely not softies. Also, by the time crisis comes, all that accumulated debt is just a huge dollar sign, and they can make us forget what it was for. “Certainly we have to pay our debts,” they say, and everybody agrees. “But if we overtax the rich and businesses, they’ll leave us in the lurch.”* And so our already-regressive tax system goes into a higher gear, hitting the poor and workers even more, while their rich, powerful friends remain grateful, and keep on showing it. To add insult to injury, the GOP now gets an undeserved reputation for fiscal restraint and responsibility. IT’S PURE POLITICS, SMOKE AND MIRRORS, BAIT-AND-SWITCH. More recently, they “create facts on the ground,” getting us into wars that benefit mostly nobody but their contractor buddies; now it’s, “We can’t leave that country in a mess, can we?”
There’s a place for borrowing by government: needs such as capital construction or repair or purchase, or emergencies. But Republicans borrow excessively, at least at the federal level. In effect they SPEND-AND-TAX: They tax future generations! That means interest on top of the initial (unworthy) cost.
This habit of theirs actually undermines two foundational principles of English/American democratic government: The people may not be taxed without the consent of their legislative representatives, aka, “Taxation without representation is tyranny**;” and, No legislature may bind a future legislature. Debt-abuse taxes future generations unnecessarily without their advance consent. And it binds future legislatures to tax, to pay for this unnecessary debt. Historically these principles are on a level with the Magna Carta, and ought to be considered more weightily than they have been in recent decades, especially by the GOP as it claims a “conservative” and “small government / anti-government” mantle … unless these too are just blowing smoke.
(*–What an undermining of our sovereignty!! That’s treason!)
(**–Although there are certainly worse forms of tyranny!)