So, some of my conservative friends (mostly just ProfMondo) have argued that the threat from al-Qaeda and the so-called militant Islamists is an existential threat to us. They want to wipe us off the face of the earth, so we really, really need to go after them. And the wars over there are entirely justified on the basis of their enmity toward us. I disagree with that characterization of the threat (and of the severity of the threat too – existential? Really?). But my argument has been – OK, assume that’s the case. The war is totally justified. But if you really, truly think that our very existence is in jeopardy, shouldn’t you also pay for the war? Instead of institute tax cuts (another way of saying revenue decreases) at the same time you’re getting ready to have a huge increase in wartime expenditures. The answer from conservatives is generally, well yeah, but the fact that happened back then is no reason not to fund the war now. Or something like that.
So, I note with some interest an article from Matthew Yglesias talking about how conservatives don’t really care about the deficit and it strikes me as a similar idea. In 2003, the conservatives really didn’t care about the deficit when they ramped up spending at the same time as they cut revenues. Because it was 2 things they love a lot – war and tax cuts. Now though the tax cuts they specifically designed to expire this year are an issue and they’re at it again. They balk at implementing any economic recovery legislation suggested by Democrats if it adds a cent to the deficit. Yet the continuation of the Bush tax cuts mean a much larger deficit. So additional spending to help the economy must be paid for (meaning little help to the economy in the end), but extension of tax cuts (which makes a huge impact on the deficit) need not be paid for. Bottom line – Republicans and conservatives don’t care about the deficit if it gets them other policy items they really care about.