Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Clinton-Gingrich Cap

Twenty-odd years ago, radical conservatives told themselves that the national debt could be useful as a club to pound the so-called welfare state. So they cut taxes on the rich and raised military spending, by scaring hell out of people with wars and rumors of war. They used the resulting deficit to whack hell out of Social Security -- a game they’re still playing.

Then along came the New Democrats, led by Bill Clinton. They also aimed to repeal the New Deal but with a twist. They were going to bring back the virtues of Hoover Republicanism. In eight years they balanced the budget, and seemed on the way to paying off the national debt. Earlier on, though, the new Democrats managed to lose control of Congress and much more. Clinton made a deal with Newt Gingrich to put us into a straitjacket. It was a rule that any increase in spending must be accompanied by money to pay for it. So the budget has remained balanced, except for the Bush tax cuts and the Bush wars. Liberals say meeting our most urgent needs is simple, just shave a few points off the schedule of future tax cuts. Bush replies that he’d veto any bill that did that , and the liberals don’t have the votes to override him or even close debate and bring an issue to the floor. That brings the issue to the streets. Americans overwhelmingly favor all that the New Deal has done for them, and can still do for them. What they need to learn is that the Clinton wing now in control of the Democratic party is no friend of theirs.