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Has Vince Gray missed the point?

By Tom Toles


Words mean what we say they mean

I've written about how conservatives seem to worry a lot about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House and the rest of the time not so much.

This dates back to the 1980's, when President Reagan decided to “cut the allowance” of government by cutting taxes. He forgot to confiscate the credit card while he was at it. Another prominent Republican of the era (I think it was Jack Kemp), explained that he was tired of “conservative” meaning “balance the budget,” which was tedious and unsexy and never very popular, either. There was fun and glamour and action in cutting taxes, and the GOP wanted in.

I empathized. Who wants to be the guy with the green visor? It's just that there were a few problems. First was that the “cutting off the allowance” gambit didn't work. Deficits exploded. Second was it wasn't actually “conservative.” Who said being conservative was SUPPOSED to be fun and popular? If you actually believe something, that's how you act, right?

RIGHT? Reducing deficits then became work that liberals had to do. Thank you, President Clinton. THAT part of the strategy was successful. And fair enough, you might say.

But the third problem is that conservatives had already pulled this gambit once before. They'd already used their Get Out of Jail Free Card. On the environment. “Conserving” resources such as air quality, water quality and oh, species, was just too dreary for conservatives to trouble themselves with, when squandering was so much more fun. Squander. Conservative. Interesting pair. --Tom Toles



By Tom Toles  | April 6, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  DC  
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Interesting fact that is rarely mentioned. While Clinton did balance the budget and had budget surpluses the total debt held by the public went up by ~1 trillion dollars over his 8 years as POTUS.

Clinton was that great of a fiscal conservative. Of course Bush was worse and Obama looks like he may be even worse than Bush.

Wasting money is a bipartisan hobby.

Posted by: BradG | April 8, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Yes, President Clinton did reduce the deficit as a % of the GDP. I don't think GDP is a fair measure.

GDP doesn't account for changes in taxation (D) or borrowing(R). The GDP, as a measure of spending, is bipartisan congressional trickery. The GDP will grow when you increase spending through taxation or borrowing alike. Feeding the GDP higher encourages more taxes and more borrowing.

This bipartisan spending behavior is but one of the fuels of the Tea Party, I think.

Until we remove the gimmickry of using the GDP as a measure of the nation's debt; the ruse will be exploited by both parties until it reaches a tipping point. Maybe that tipping point is the rise of the Tea Party. Maybe.

Thanks Tom!

Posted by: brent6 | April 6, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Its really up to the liberals to do the "conservative" work. And we sometimes get it wrong when we try to emulate the bumper sticker conservatives.

In my opinion the greatest need for truly conservative leadership in the past thirty years concerned the Iraq WMD. With the UN inspectors crawling all over the country, and U2s flying overhead, no evidence of WMD was found. True conservatives would have become very reticent about invading the country, and would have let the inspectors finish their work. But the bumper sticker conservatives and their liberal emulators took the opposite view - a trillion dollars and wrecked country later.......

Posted by: sherm1 | April 6, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

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