Surprise surprise, all of a sudden Republicans are becoming deficit hawks:
Out of power, Republicans appear to be retreating to familiar old ground. They’re becoming deficit hawks again.
GOP lawmakers didn’t seem to mind enjoying the fruits of government largesse for the past eight years while one of their own was in the White House. Now they’re struggling to regain footing at a time of economic rout, a record $1.2 trillion budget deficit and an incoming Democratic president claiming a mandate for change.
It might not be the best time for running against more government spending. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from casting themselves as protectors of the public purse, striving for relevancy as Congress tackles President-elect Barack Obama’s stimulus legislation.
George W. Bush almost never met a spending bill he didn’t like. When he took office, we had a $236.2 billion surplus; now we have a $1.2 trillion deficit. Under his watch, the national debt doubled.
Now that President-elect Obama and the Democrats are trying to fix this mess, suddenly Republicans care about deficits. It’s like the last eight years didn’t happen; like the plague of Republican incompetence, mismanagement and self-defeating economic policies was all just a terrible dream. The same conservatives who championed Bush’s policies of tax cuts + spending are suddenly ripping into Obama’s policies of tax cuts + spending. It’s more than bizarre.
Just look at what Jonah Goldberg wrote in the spring of 2004:
In other words, when the economy hits a rocky patch, most experts agree that the government should either cut taxes, increase spending or both in order to stimulate the economy. A personal financial consultant wouldn’t object to a truck driver going into temporary debt to get his broken truck fixed, and pretty much all economists, liberals and conservatives alike, don’t object to borrowing in order to restart economic growth.
Funny, I hear a lot of progressives having to make that very point to newly-minted conservative deficit hawks. But there’s a huge difference between Bush’s deficits and Obama’s–Bush racked up huge deficits because Republicans wanted to have their cake and eat it too; they wanted to have their tax cuts and their massive government spending all at the same time. Obama, on the other hand, is going to rack up deficits in order to fix our economy and clean up the mess the Republicans made.
Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything different from Republicans, who seem intent on changing their political postitions more than they change their socks. But I can’t imagine they’re going to win over a lot of support by running against economic recovery.
And I’m not the only one:
“It’s hard to oppose fixing the economy right now,” said Stanley Collender, a former congressional budget analyst now with Qorvis Communications, a Washington consulting firm. Collender said the depth of the crisis makes it difficult for fiscal conservatives in either party “to say that deficits are something that should be addressed right now.”
“If you say that, you kind of lose credibility,” Collender said.
“Losing credibility” is what the GOP has been doing for years now; I guess they’ve at least been consistent on that front.