The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, May 15, 2004

The real reason for the Bush budget bonanza?

There is an iconic (in Britain) TV play from the 1960s called Spend, Spend, Spend about a family that wins a hefty sum on the football pools, and live to rue their good fortune. It somehow popped into my mind in contemplating the fiscal laxity of the Dear Leader.

Bush, notoriously, has let deficits rip: every bill is a No Lobbyist Left Behind bill.

Casually reading a piece from 2000 by EJ Dionne Why Americans Hate Politics: A Reprise - referencing his book of that name - I note this passage:
When Clinton assumed office, the budget deficit was a central and debilitating fact of public life...With the deficit eliminated, it is possible again to have that most fundamental of political arguments: whether the government should do more or cut taxes.

Shrewd conservatives understood that the end of the deficit meant liberals could be bolder in proposing new programs because they could do so without also proposing new taxes.

Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal warned early on that the era of "balanced budget liberalism" would be dangerous to conservatives who had become accustomed to swatting new programs away with arguments that they were unaffordable in light of the deficit. Had not government grown in the early 1960s and 1970s, Gigot asked, when deficits did not figure so prominently in the political debate? The ambitious plans offered by Bill Bradley and Al Gore for expansions of health coverage, pre-school and after-school programs, and efforts to fight child poverty ratified Gigot’s prediction.

Could Bush's profligacy be more than an eager capitulation to special interests? By wasting carloads of dead presidents on - to pick a topic at random - the WPA for Big Pharma that is the Medicare Act, Bush is actually a partisan of old-style Republican small government.

Classic Ben Tre logic: as Mr Micawber didn't say, Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure a couple of trillion: result - ideological nirvana.

(Next week: the essential sanity of Tulipmania...)


Skimming the rest of the piece, one can't help feeling Dionne was suffering from a touch of the Fukuyama's (End of History and all that). Culture wars supposedly over, Big v Small Government over, a Clinton third way the centre of political gravity...

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