Resetting America’s Priorities

I must admit that conservatives have done an absolutely fantastic job at selling their agenda. Over the last 30-40 years they have been extremely consistent. We’ve heard it over and over again. The problem with America is “big government.” This can be used for anything. It’s nonspecific, which is part of its beauty. Big government can be a euphemism for city government, state government or the federal government. It can stand for all three. It doesn’t really matter. One of the overarching, big goals of conservatism has been to defund the government (everything from Planned Parenthood to NPR). If you can reduce the amount of money that the government has, all the programs that they hate (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and the like) must also be decreased in size or even eliminated. So, now, after Wall Street bailouts and the Great Recession, we are looking at large deficits. Republicans are using this opportunity to push their agenda to reduce the size of government. The Republicans are proposing large spending cuts. These are cuts in discretionary spending. These are cuts in programs that actually help lower and middle income Americans.

If the goal is reducing our deficits then we need to realistically look at their fiscal solutions. (I don’t think that Republicans really intend to reduce the deficit. Their focus is on reducing the size of government and eliminating programs that they hate.) The quickest way to reduce the deficit is to look at both sides of the equation. First, increase revenue. Second, decrease expenses. This simple graph shows how much we can close the gap by reversing the Bush tax cuts. Until we talk about increasing taxes on those who can afford it, we are not seriously talking about deficit reduction.