Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility
After enacting a massive tax cut for the wealthy that will create record federal deficits, House Republicans last week once again attempted and failed to pass a balanced budget amendment. This latest example of hypocritical Republican grandstanding was exactly as principled and purposeful as their thoughts and prayers after mass shootings. A balanced budget amendment would be terrible policy, but Republicans don't care about policy or the public good, anyway. Republicans do, however, love to posture—particularly in an election year. And they hope that the media will play along, which in the case of budgets often has been the case, with Democrats too often playing defense on an issue they should own. Particularly in an election year.
But some in the media won't play the Republicans' game, and Democrats should seize the advantage:
By now, nobody should be surprised when the Republican Party violates its claims of fiscal rectitude. Increasing the deficit — through big tax cuts, mostly for the rich — has been the defining feature of the party’s economic policy for decades. When Paul Ryan and other Republicans call themselves fiscal conservatives, they’re basically doing a version of the old Marx Brothers bit: “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Ever so slowly, conventional wisdom has started to recognize this reality. After Ryan’s retirement announcement last week, only a few headlines called him a deficit hawk. People are catching on to the con.
Almost seven years ago, I wrote a piece with the title:
The Republicans have no credibility on deficits
It's not more true now than then. It's exactly as true. Republicans haven't ever been credible on deficits. But they have loved to pretend. As I wrote nearly seven years ago:
When Republicans talk about deficits they are hypocrites and liars. The president and the Democratic leaders in Congress can't speak it that bluntly, but we can. And if we do, perhaps in time the president and the Democratic leaders in Congress will begin to speak it with the less emotionally charged words that the Republicans have no credibility on deficits. Any time a Democrat is on television and is asked about the politics of deficits, the response should begin with the simple message that the Republicans have no credibility on deficits. Any time a Democrat is debating a Republican on television, and the Republican mentions deficits, the response should begin with the simple message that the Republicans have no credibility on deficits. It's easy. It's factual. And with but a bit of message discipline, it could remake the nature of our political system.
Ronald Reagan used the deficit as an issue when he ran against President Carter. As president, Reagan ran up the largest deficit in U.S. history. The Republicans of his era talked a lot about a Balanced Budget Amendment, while consistently voting to run up the largest deficit in U.S. history. Reagan's successor, the heir to the Bush dynasty, outdid his mentor by running up an even larger deficit. President Clinton raised taxes, eliminated the deficit and created a surplus, and just coincidentally oversaw an enormous economic expansion and near full employment. The next heir to the Bush dynasty cut taxes, eviscerated the Clinton surplus, and outdid both his father and Reagan by breaking their records for creating the largest deficits in U.S. history. He also all but broke the economy. This isn't complicated. This isn't difficult to explain. What is difficult to explain is why the Democrats don't do a better and more consistent job of explaining it.
But Democrats have gotten better at it. In fact, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's floor speech in opposition to the latest Republican posturing was concise, factual, and scathing in its simplicity.