Deficit Double Standards

Ezra Klein writes about the deficit double standard:

Bush’s 2001 tax cuts was the first time the budget reconciliation process had ever been used for a bill that increased the deficit. Ever. Democrats were appalled. When they retook the Congress, both the House and the Senate passed a rule barring reconciliation from being used for bills that increased the deficit.

The product, of course, is that Democrats can’t use reconciliation for bills that increase the deficit. But it goes beyond even that: A number of powerful congressional Democrats really care about the deficit. So too do a number of powerful White House economic advisers. They’ve decided that balancing the bill in the 10-year window, as the House Democrats do, isn’t sufficient. They want it balanced beyond the 10-year window, too.

It’s all very responsible, and very good policy, but it means the Obama White House has committed itself to two incredibly stringent conditions the Bush White House avoided: finding sufficient revenues for their programs, and finding the kind of revenue that keeps pace with the spending in their programs over the long-term. That makes their job a lot harder.

This strikes me as too kind to the Democratic Party. Blanche Lincon, Dianne Feinstein, Mary Landrieu, Max Baucus, Tim Johnson, and Ben Nelson along with several Democrats who are no longer in the Senate (Cleland, Toricelli, Breaux, Miller, etc.) all voted for the 2001 Bush tax cuts. And as noted earlier, Senators Baucus, Bayh, Cantwell, Landrieu, Lincoln, Murray, Nelson, Nelson, Pryor, and Tester all voted for the budget-busting Kyl-Lincoln amendment to offer deficit-financed tax cuts for wealthy heirs and heiresses. Max Baucus voted for George W. Bush’s deficit-financed 2003 Medicare bill. And lots of centrist Democrats have no problem with increasing the deficit in order to start wars.


There’s a double standard here, but it’s a pretty bipartisan one. The deficit counts as a reason not to engage in social welfare spending at home, but it never stands in the way of tax cuts for the wealthy or wars.