Balanced Deficit Reduction Works

Jon Chait observes that we do in fact have a model for how to reduce government spending and it comes in the form of the big budget deals of 1990 and 1993 that took a balanced approach to the deficit, with both tax and revenue measures:


Now the 1993 deal was a purely partisan affair, with congressional Republicans in unanimous opposition. But the 1990 deal was bipartisan. And both deals were successful in achieving the states goals of the conservative movement—less spending, smaller deficit. But as Chait says, conservatives hate both deals and have managed to work themselves into a frenzy of denial that these things worked.

He writes that he “continue[s] to be amazed at the failure of conservatives to grasp their own ideological self-interest.” I think this is just another example of a situation where you have to judge political movements by what they do and not what they say. Progressives generally care a little about the deficit, though they’re happy to put it aside to advance other goals. Conservatives, by contrast, appear to have no concern whatsoever about either the budget deficit or the extent of government spending. Instead they’re extremely focused on minimizing federal revenue—they don’t want to close distortionary loopholes, they don’t want deficit-reducing grand bargains—and decades into the movement’s lifespan, it’s time to stop being surprised.