Conservatives Still Don’t Care About the Deficit

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Back earlier in the summer I did a series of posts on the theme about how conservatives don’t care about the deficit. Conservatives tried to push back on this in a number of ways, but you can really only generate the conclusion that conservatives care about the deficit if by “deficit” you mean “reducing the quantity of federal revenue.” It’s certainly true that conservatives care—a lot!—about reducing the quantity of federal revenue. But of course this is just redefinition.

Consider, for example, Lori Montgomery’s reporting for The Washington Post:

Even as they hammer Democrats for running up record budget deficits, Senate Republicans are rolling out a plan to permanently extend an array of expiring tax breaks that would deprive the Treasury of more than $4 trillion over the next decade, nearly doubling projected deficits over that period unless dramatic spending cuts are made.

The point I would make here is that we don’t need to talk about blah blah unless spending cuts. The Affordable Care Act contained spending provisions that would dramatically increase the budget deficit unless paired with tax increases, and since the White House cared about the deficit those spending provisions were paired with tax increases, thus generating a bill that, unless repealed, will reduce the deficit.


Conservatives, by contrast, don’t care about the deficit so they’ve written a bill that will increase the deficit. By a lot. It’ll double it! It’s true that many conservatives say they separately favor spending cuts that would offset this affect. But if conservatives in the Senate wanted to pair tax cuts with spending offsets, they could have written a bill that does that. Conservative Senators are currently saying that they will filibuster a middle class tax cut unless that tax cut is paired with tax cuts that exclusively benefit rich people. That’s because they care—a lot—about reducing taxes on rich people. If they cared about reducing the deficit they could threaten to filibuster tax cuts unless paired with spending cuts. But they’re not doing that because they don’t care about the deficit.

What’s more, conservative columnists could urge them to do this. So could Fox News hosts and conservative talk radio stars. So could the Heritage Foundation, the American Action Network, the American Enterprise Institute, or the Cato Institute. But none of them are doing so. It’s true, again, that they separately say they favor cutting spending but none of them are urging members of congress to make tax cuts contingent on offsetting spending reductions. Because, again, conservatives don’t care about the deficit and not caring about the deficit is sufficiently foundational to their ideology that there’s essentially no dissent from this posture.