Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Pox On Both Their Houses

In the midst of a heated exchange with Jonathan Chait of the New Republic, Reason magazine writer Nick Gillespie makes a very simple but oft-forgotten point - that one needn't have approved of the job George W. Bush did as President to disapprove of the one Barack Obama is doing. Like Gillespie, I happen to think Bush was an awful President, but that that doesn't change the fact that (on fiscal matters at least), Obama has been just as bad if not worse. Among the many things I disliked about Bush was his gross fiscal irresponsibility - not so much the substantial tax cuts or the massive spending hikes per se, but the fact that he pursued both simultaneously and with equal fervor, exploding a Federal deficit situation that had actually improved somewhat late in the Clinton years and leaving what was already going to be a long-term crunch looking likely to be much more painful when it finally hits. I did not vote for Obama because I wanted more of the same. But that's what we're getting, plus one - all of Bush's reckless spending, plus a little more from the long-time Democratic wish list.

The chart Gillespie posts basically tells the whole story - out-of-control Federal spending is a bigger problem than the tax cuts when it comes to the deficit situation. Whether the Democrats decide to continue the cuts or let them lapse makes no difference - we're still screwed, because we are still spending too much money we don't have. It's just a question of degree. To committed members of Team Red or Team Blue, it be convenient to bash the other side with this reality when they hold power and impolitic to mention it when you do, but for people who care more about the future of the country than the fortunes of a particular political party or its associated ideology, it's a big effing problem that needs to be dealt with one way or another. I don't want to hear from the Democrats when they're criticized for deficit spending that Bush did it too - news flash guys, that's why we fucking voted his party out of office. I want somebody, somebody, to stand up and be an adult and tell the voting public what they need to hear - that we're on an unsustainable course, that changing it is probably going to entail both tax hikes and spending cuts, and that people need to get used to that. As is, all I have is a choice of which conglomeration of connected special interests I let into the sty to begin feeding at the government trough. Pointing out that the Democrats are venal, short-sighted, and incompetent does not make one a Republican stooge any more than pointing out that the Republicans under Bush were venal, short-sighted, and incompetent made one a Republican stooge. It's possible for both sides to be wrong.

As an indepedent, I take the fact that partisan hacks from both sides despise me as a sign that I'm on the right track. Government, to the extent that is necessary, should be about solving problems and creating the most favorable possible environment for private enterprise (in business and elsewhere) to flourish. It should not be about handing out publicly financed goodies to your friends like Halloween candy because they helped to get you elected. Too often, that is what it is about, and anger over that fact is why I think anti-incumbent fervor against politicians in both parties is so strong right now.

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