Things to Disagree About

David Boaz observes that inflation-adjusted federal spending tends to increase steadily even as the political winds fluctuate:

But the bottom line is: If we have two parties for a reason, because they believe in different things, why don’t we some real differences in the growth of federal spending?

Is this really such a hard question? It’s just that the disagreements between the parties must be about something else than the fake fight over “spending.” For example, “what should we spend money on?” Or, “how should the burden of taxes be distributed?”

But on the spending front, let’s note this. Barack Obama proposed a deficit-financed extension of some of the Bush tax cuts. Congressional Republicans calculated, accurately, that Obama was so committed to the goal of extending some of the Bush tax cuts that they could hold this goal hostage and force concessions on other issues. This would have been a golden opportunity, for example, to say they would only vote for Obama’s precious tax cuts if Obama agreed to offsetting spending cuts. But they didn’t do that. Instead they said they would block Obama’s tax cuts unless Obama agreed to additional “rich people only” tax cuts. That’s a real, meaningful disagreement, one that’s typical of our times, but it’s not a disagreement about the quantity of spending.