Monday, May 30, 2011

The Republican Mythology of “Spending Like a Democrat”

“[North Carolina Representative Patrick] McHenry may pretend to be a Republican, but he sure as hell spends like a Democrat—or even worse.”
  —Republicans Against Patrick McHenry
26 FEBRUARY 2011
This idea—that Democrats “spend” more than Republicans do—is clearly a flawed mythology. It is wrong in two different ways.

First, if you listen to Republican language (especially over these Obama years), you hear almost-exclusively the word, “spending,” and rarely hear the word, “investing.” Given that the Republican Party prides itself so vocally on things such as “fiscal responsibility,” you would expect it to make the distinction between items limited to “Expenses” on the income statement and items to be listed as “Assets” on the balance sheet.

Republicans Avoid this Distinction.

It’s as if you were to call someone out on the carpet about where the heck all their money goes, saying something like, “All you do is spend, spend, spend. Look at this! You’ve spent $4.00 for a café latte and $400,000 for a house. That’s more than $400,000 spent in one year—for coffee and other stuff!”

Without the transcontinental railroad and the Interstate Highway system and the NASA space program,  where would American be?

Spending like a Democrat.

Second, if you look at the lessons of history, you may be surprised at recent examples of “Spending like a Republican.”

An example notable for its relationship to one of America’s greatest examples of Republican leadership, is the spending that President Reagan motivated, in his effort either to build a Strategic Defense Initiative (AKA “Star Wars”) or to bankrupt the Soviet Union (a legitimate “Mission Accomplished”). You may be too young to remember the fears that Democrats expressed when the Reagan years produced the greatest level of non-wartime debt that America had known. Democrats then were convinced (as Republicans are now convinced) that such deficit spending could not possibly be corrected. And it was not corrected until two presidents later, when the engine of American entrepreneurship turned that “spending” debt around.

Then, of course, we have the unfortunate example of President George W. Bush taking us into an arguably unjustifiable war in Iraq and into the Medicare-D program. Both of these items demonstrate irresponsible Republican spending—which may represent legitimate, if intangible investments—in that no provision of paying for them was part of the process.

Listening to Democrats speak—notably the members of the Congressional Black Caucus—one hears them speak over and over about how they plan to pay for their “spending” programs. From Republicans, one hears only the continued promise of “trickle down,” which clearly has not occurred in our economy over the past thirty years since we first elected Ronald Reagan to accomplish this economic miracle. The vague hope, expressed with strong conviction, that lower taxes for the wealthy somehow result in good-paying jobs for those lower down in the economic “food chain” just never becomes reality.

Conservatives like to disown the latter President Bush as not one of their own. But no one who knows anything about this man could consider him to be either a Democrat or a Liberal, hiding in Conservative, Republican clothing.

At some point, any true “fiscal conservatives” remaining in the Republican Party will need to face the truth:

American Democrats “invest” in America’s infrastructure for the future, more than they just “spend.” And “pay as you go” is a Democratic expression of fiscal conservatism.

The false Republican delusions that this party opposes under the combined labels of “Democrat” and “spending” are just an easy target, painted on the backs of those Americans actually committed to making our great nation a better place. And not just a better place for eviscerating the middle class.


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