Republicans are not blowing up the deficit for fun. They have a very specific purpose in mind and it has nothing to do with making America great again.
If you haven't turned on cable news or read a newspaper in the last week, you'd be forgiven for not noticing that the media is stunned, stunned!, that Republicans are running up the deficit after 8 years of screeching like dying howler monkeys over every penny Obama put on the national credit card:
- The Republicans Have Become the Party of Debt
- Republicans Learn to Love Deficit Spending They Once Loathed
- The Proof is in: Republicans never cared about the deficit
- Trump's GOP ditches fiscal conservatism as budget deal clips wings of deficit hawks
It's almost like they've completely forgotten the entire Bush administration when Republicans went from fighting tooth and nail against every penny Bill Clinton wanted to spend to exploding the deficit to record heights the second they had power.
Funny how that works.
The question most of these hand-wringing articles ask is "Why?" Why are Republicans so intent on vastly increasing government spending all of a sudden when we don't actually need it? And why are they in such a rush to do it?
The lazy answer is that they're hoping to boost their chances for the midterms. But with unemployment still hovering around 4.1% and the economy more or less as strong as it was when Obama left office, spending more money on the military and playing catch up on healthcare isn't going to change their dismal electoral outlook much. Republicans know it and so should any reporter worth their salt.
A much more realistic, and much darker, answer is that Republicans are engaged in an act of violent economic sabotage. They're setting the stage for an economic crisis that will make the Great Recession look like a mild annoyance.
Republicans have a "starve the beast" strategy of running up the debt and deficit in order to constrain Democratic administrations from spending money on domestic issues like feeding children and housing the elderly. We all saw this in action as Bush left Obama a $1.4 trillion deficit and Republicans demanded austerity when the economy collapsed. Said austerity was only for the poor and middle class, of course. There would be no cuts to any spending on the rich. Perish the thought!
Fast forward to 2018. The overall economy is stable but Republicans have undone a lot of the safety measures Obama put into place to keep it from going off the rails again. The stock market, on the other hand, is a bubble due for a fairly significant correction anytime now. Put those two things together and it's fairly obvious we're heading for a recession while Trump is still in office.
Normally, this wouldn't be that bad. The economy really is stable and it's been absorbing numerous shocks over the last several years without more than a slight wobble. When the oil market collapsed, we barely noticed. When China's economy tumbled for a while, we shrugged it off. You didn't hear much about it because stability is boring and the "liberal" press prefers to report bad news. We should be able to weather a mild recession, even a serious one, fairly well. We could do what every Republican president has done in the last 50 years and increase government spending. We have literally trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt and that would nip any recession in the bud in a heartbeat if we were serious about it. Basic economics tells us that's when deficit spending is the most useful.
But by running up the deficit when we don't need it, Republicans are making it impossible to increase spending when the inevitable recession comes. The only "solution" will be brutal austerity on the poor and middle class (but never the rich!). You can already hear Paul Ryan salivating at the idea of kicking millions of people off of Medicare and Medicaid while demanding Social Security be privatized.
As for why they're in such a rush to explode the deficit? They have to do it now because they can't rely on Trump to do it for them when the Democrats control Congress. Faced with a massive recession and an angry public, Trump is not going to naturally seek to shred the social safety net. He's going to frantically cast about for whatever will make him the hero and austerity isn't it. Remember, Trump has no ideology beyond himself. If the Democrats put a bill in front of him that will make life better for the poor and middle class while closing tax loopholes for Wall Street bankers, he will sign it as long as it makes him look good with the public. Trump is a populist in the sense he will do anything that is popular and improving the social safety net while clawing back money from the rich is very popular across the political spectrum.
But with the deficit already at $1.5 trillion, a recession will push it close to $2 trillion if not over. Even the Democrats might quail at the thought of pushing the tried and true Keynesian solution of government spending to fight a deep recession with the price tag that high.
And that's the point. With the echo chamber of Fox News, AM Hate Radio and right wing hate sites blaring out a sudden renewal of deficit hawkishness, Republicans, aided by a "liberal" media that will have, yet again, completely forgotten the GOP's responsibility for the massive deficit, will scream at the top of their lungs that the nation is on the brink of collapse unless we cut all this bloated government spending on poor people. They'll probably even have the gall to demand more tax cuts for "job creators" because they're just that shameless.
It would be nice to be wrong. It would be nice to believe that the Republican Party doesn't actually despise the nation so much they would risk a total economic collapse just to achieve their political agenda of undoing the social safety net. But these are the same people that are literally protecting Donald Trump from an investigation into collusion with Russia to steal an election and allowing Russia to continue tampering with our elections because it benefits them. It's been clear for quite some time that the Republican Party has no moral or ethical line they will not cross with reckless abandon in the pursuit of power. They're not even hiding their hypocrisy anymore.
When the recession hits and Republicans start their braying for massive cuts "for the good of the nation", what you'll really be hearing is nothing more than the laughing mockery of soulless monsters demanding the lives of the poor and middle class be sacrificed on their altar of greed.