In this case it is unnecessary for me to summarize the lie examined in Part Three, since John Boehner, while addressing budget negotiations stated it quite directly and quite concisely: “We don’t have deficits because Americans are taxed too little, we have deficits because Washington spends too much.”
This lie as Mr. Boehner stated it, is an admirably multi-faceted one, especially for its brevity, melding a mathematical sleight of hand with a philosophical one.
My much more than adequate multi-faceted response would be that if we have a government the size the American the people wish it to be, then existence of the debt and the deficit are prima facie proof that indeed, we tax too little. This also would make self-evident that whether we are spending too much or we are spending too little, we must obtain the revenue to pay for what we are actuallyspending, that revenue arriving of course in the form of taxes paid.
So the extent to which this lie is successful for conservatives is dependent upon the extent to which any number of Americans can be convinced that government always must be smaller than it currrently is; or that government must be smaller than Americans want it to be; or that spending must always remain static, and levels of taxation must remain static; but government initiatives or programs upon which citizens depend and find useful are malleable or expendable. The lowest tax rates on the wealthy in the modern world and the lowest in American history? Immovable as concrete. Medicare as we now know it? Anything goes.
Of course the key to selling this conservative propaganda is convincing a sufficient number of Americans that a significant portion of what government does is unnecessary for them, and in particular, that those to whom it is necessary are undeserving and expensive to the rest. This explains why some Americans will denounce the size of government and the usefulness of government programs in the abstract, but yowl at a very high pitch when government fixtures on which they depend are jeopardized.
So it’s always useful for conservatives to misrepresent the bulk of those who receive government assistance as permanent lazy “welfare queens” or parasitic “illegals” rather than what they actually are: Americans having a temporary hard time due to circumstances beyond their control, namely loss of employment due to large scale economic twists and turns, illness, or perhaps weather-related or other tragedies. The misrepresentation is absolutely necessary because Americans fundamentally, innately and experientially understand the possibility and involuntary nature of becoming unemployed, the same way they understand that senior citizens can no longer accrue income at their stage of life, and that it is an eminently wise program that allows them to contribute to a government insurance fund when they are young and working, and then withdraw from it when they are old and by necessity retired, which is exactly how the two most popular programs in American history, Medicare and Social Security operate.
This is not to make any foolish argument that waste should not be rigorously sought out and eliminated. Unfortunately, conservatives are not concerned about waste either, an unconcern translating into basic hypocrisy, their perennial tactic being to identify spending as waste only if it appears in a program for which they have no use in its entirety anyhow, while waste found in programs upon which they or their constituents benefit, such as the defense budget, does not meet their definition of: waste. This spending, like low tax rates for the wealthy is critical to the survival of the nation they will tell you, therefore also frozen into place and eminently untouchable.
Furthermore, conservatives when in power, in other words when their actions are measured against their words, possess no record of fiscal responsibility, no record of restrained spending or balanced budgets, nor lip service really to either. That occurs only after they have been removed from power. And then it occurs very loudly. But in fact, three Republican presidents in succession have increased the budget deficit and the national debt during their administrations, Reagan and W. Bush raising deficits to historical and unprecedented levels, all three leaving massive budget holes for their successors. This was particularly egregious in the case of the more recent Bush administration, inheriting as it did a couple hundred billion in surplus.
Likewise, the size of government as a percentage of GDP has remained the same for decades, staying at current levels or actually increasing under Republican presidents. Of course, while the previous administration ran amok with the budget with its combination of massive, unpaid for military spending and enormous, unnecessary tax cut windfalls for very wealthy Americans and the corporate sector, creating the current deficit canyon, Dick Cheney famously said, “Deficits don’t matter.” Conservatives who idolized him then and still do, seemingly have no awareness of the cognitive dissonance or rank hypocrisy on display by them at the moment, as they yell from the rooftops that debt and deficits are the bane of our nationhood, and righteously and somewhat stupidly charge at the social safety net with hatchets and axes.
And that is the fix Boehner and his Tea Party screaming meemies find themselves in at the curremt time: attempting to sell the lie to the American people that spending is the problem, revenue is not, and proposing “trillions” in spending reductions, which only can be achieved by dismantling programs Americans indicate quite emphatically they wish to spend their money on, as the recent uproar over Medicare and the Ryan Plan made perfectly clear. The effort to convince Americans they don’t need to spend the money for Medicare, or that Medicare isn’t a program they should want, or that even deserves to be retained is having about as much success as Lindsay Lohan is having in court.
In fact, positioning themselves either to reduce the economy to rubble by stalling on the lifting of the debt ceiling unless or until they can get spending reductions achievable only by gutting Medicare, is not an enviable one to be in, but one which zealots and fanatics and those in congress who do their bidding cannot help but get themselves into.
Americans, in poll after poll have by large margins expressed the view that taxes on the wealthy should be increased as the preferable method for bringing the deficit in line, and that they much prefer raising revenue through taxation to cutting spending for programs it is their explicit desire to retain. Americans sensibly question why the deficit must remain huge, or programs they endorse should be reduced, because a segment of the legislative branch staunchly refuses to go where the money is and get it, Americans in possession of abundant wealth, and some of the lowest tax rates in the entire world and in American history, and staggering sums in subsidies to corporate enterprises already enjoying profits so high they are toppling over.
So no, Johnny boy, spending is not the problem, revenue is. Your base may not be particularly fond of reality, but I’m afraid they’re about to get 14 trillion cc of the stuff.