Now that the nation is within 100 days of the midterm congressional elections, the campaigns seem to be coming to life with their arguments to the nation. One theme that has started to emerge from the political right is the issue of spending restraint. On this point conservatives and the Tea Party types are banking on the American people’s notoriously microscopic attention span and memory. The facts, having a well known liberal bias, cause trouble for such a political plan. The upside for the right is that Americans can hardly remember what they had for breakfast, let alone the fiscal situation of the nation in 2007.
Several times in the past month I have challenged the weak urban legend in American politics that Republicans, conservatives, and Tea Party whack jobs have been practitioners of fiscal restraint and cutting wasteful spending on my Twitter feed. Several times I have been challenged on this fact by right leaning twitter users. The progression is always the same and telling of the real truth these people understand. It usually starts by stating some fact, such as the national debt expanded by $4.3 trillion during the 8 years of the Bush administration. First they deny that the number is accurate. After citing sources the equivocation begins. In normal times Republicans and conservatives are dedicated to fiscal restraint, but 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11.
The wars this country have fought over the last ten years are filled with several inconvenient truths when it comes to the myth of conservative fiscal restraint. Now regardless of your feelings on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this country and its Republican leadership decided it was in the best interest of the United States to fight two simultaneous wars on the other side of the planet. The American people were told that it was vital to our national security that we sacrifice for the greater good. But that sacrifice was always to be shouldered by our proud volunteer army and the credit cards. Our Republican run government decided to become the first in world history to reduce taxes at a time of war. Not only were the wars fought for the entirety of the Bush administration unpaid, they were also never put on budget. The budgets that George W. Bush submitted to his Republican run congress never included war funds for Iraq and Afghanistan. They were always submitted as continuing resolutions off budget. Although I am not here to argue the Iraq war, the staggering mountain of facts show that the invasion of Iraq was avoidable and was purely a choice by the Bush administration. It was also unpaid for. The deficits ballooned, but as Dick Cheney famously said, “deficits don’t matter.”
Now when pointing the wars out and how they were not paid for, the rhetorical geniuses then parry to argue the need for those wars. The need or importance of them is immaterial as much as the total disregard for how they would affect the deficit. Then oddly enough those I argue with suddenly put the responsibility for the wars into Barack Obama’s hands. The wars that they have told us were vital to national security suddenly become something he can end anytime if he wants to. The argument then starts to tragically unravel. Each time I get to the end of my long litany of examples of how Republican claims of being the party of fiscal responsibility are as believable as Pinocchio in a bind, the other side disavows the Republican party quicker than Peter before the crowing.
The last gasp out of these embarrassed Bush voters in Libertarians clothing is the claim that as bad as Republicans were, Democrats have carried it to a new level. This is where the argument for Republican fiscal responsibility becomes a heap of ashes. As much as they desperately cling to the average Fox News viewer’s ignorant belief that TARP and the auto bailouts began under Barack Obama’s administration, the facts get in the way again. Both were begun under the Bush administration, and the final budgetary year of his reign posted a $1 trillion plus deficit. But again the same logic comes back around to bite them. They laugh at the Obama administration for using the same justification for deficit spending that they themselves use to defend the shoddy fiscal record of Bush. Wherein the desperate crisis of 9/11 was a perfect excuse for deficit spending, the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression was not a time at all to deficit spend. It wasn’t appropriate in their eyes mainly for one reason, they aren’t in charge anymore.