Editorial: Anti-debt crusaders? That’s one big GOP con

Column By John Young

Until that televised perp walk, enough with George Santos.

When this country elected a serial fabulist (“I’m self-funding my own campaign”) to its highest office, it made manifest that lying is a coin of conquest.

Enough about a little congressman and his little lies. Something bigger is dead ahead.

We are approaching a moment with “catastrophe” written all over it: a game of chicken over the debt limit driven by Republican hard-liners.

The nation raised its debt limit three times under Donald Trump. Even he said the matter was no place for gamesmanship (he who told supporters, “I’ve always loved debt.”)

So, with a Republican micro majority in the House, let the games begin.

Those pushing a showdown want you to believe that they have ridden to the rescue. They are the anti-debt crusaders this moment requires.

Nothing these people have done in office shows this to be true.

The truth is that Democrats, though more prone to spend money to address human and infrastructure needs, have been far more attentive to the ramifications of their spending than the Republicans and theirs.

This most recent Republican lie goes back to the Big Con of supply-side, trickle-down economics under Ronald Reagan.

Former Reagan budget director David Stockman blew the whistle on so-called austerity measures that actually were the shifting of funds for social welfare to the military.

Throw in massive tax cuts. Stockman wrote about the “magic asterisk” built into Reaganomics, meaning things weren’t going to add up, no way, no how. The result was massive deficits.

Sweeping tax reforms under Reagan could have wiped out deficits and set us on a long-term surplus path, but he insisted they be revenue-neutral. It was a horrendous blown opportunity.

The last time this country had an extended budget surplus was via Bill Clinton’s pen. Then it was back to deficits under a Republican Congress and with George W. Bush enacting massive tax cuts.

By now, everyone should appreciate the time-tested truth that tax cuts don’t pay for themselves.

When a government is deep in debt, a tax cut is deficit spending by another name — but without the benefits that come with spending for something like infrastructure improvements or help for those who need it most.

Even in states with balanced budget requirements, Republican policies focused on tax cuts or leaning on regressive systems like sales taxes result in what experts call “structural deficits,” when dire needs — schools, highways, and other improvements on infrastructure — are postponed.

Hey, Texas, that means you and your electric grid.

The GOP cites Democratic “tax and spend” policies, but at least the front half of that equation — raising taxes — reduces the effect of such spending on the deficit.

The Affordable Care Act, for instance, included a modest tax on investment income to help pay for itself. Meanwhile, it dramatically eased pressure on Medicare and Medicaid.

Similarly, the infrastructure bill signed by Joe Biden included a minimum corporate tax to help pay for itself.

If one is looking for the biggest culprit behind the deficit, look no further than Republican tax cuts, particularly those signed by Trump.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates the Trump tax cuts added $5.6 trillion to the national debt, roughly a third of all federal debt accumulated from 2001 to 2018.

And let us not discount the stunning cost of the “War on Terror” – some $6 trillion on what the military and Homeland Security did in response to Sept. 11, without an additional dime raised to pay for all the borrowing.

So don’t let any Republican say that his party has the answers to the national debt. His “solution” likely will be exactly what got us in this hole.

If we’re going to have perp walks for falsehoods, how about fables like these?

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.