How Republican Hypocrisy Lifts Social Democrats

By its astoundingly cynical approach to deficits and debt, the G.O.P. has opened the door to an expansive left.

That Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of expansive, expensive socialism has found this moment so conducive to its popularity is no accident. Its rise has been uniquely fueled by President Trump, who as both a businessman and a politician has embodied a cartoon version of rapacious capitalism.

.. But it has also been emboldened by more conventional aspects of the Republican agenda, in particular the party’s astoundingly hypocritical approach to debt and deficits.

.. Under Mr. Obama, Paul Ryan, the outgoing speaker of the House, repeatedly blasted the president for declining to manage the federal budget. In 2012, he told the Republican National Convention that “in this generation, a defining responsibility of government is to steer our nation clear of a debt crisis while there is still time.”

.. A year earlier, Senator Mitch McConnell called the federal debt “the nation’s most serious long-term problem.” Over and over, Republicans cast Mr. Obama’s rising deficits as a profound social menace, a form of budgetary terrorism that threatened the country’s future.

.. The Republicans’ pretense to deficit hawkery put pressure on Democrats to adopt a similar stance. Whether or not most Democrats actually cared about the deficit, their leaders tended to act as if they did. So the health care law was structured, with the help of some gimmickry, to score as an overall reduction to the federal deficit, and Mr. Obama, in speeches, singled out entitlement spending as the biggest driver of the long-term debt and convened a bipartisan committee to recommend deficit-reduction strategies.

.. Nor do Republicans appear ready to reverse course. President Trump recently proposed a $12 billion bailout for farmers hurt by the trade war he started, and senior White House advisers have called for a second round of tax cuts that would make permanent the individual rate cuts in the first tax law, at a cost of roughly $600 billion.

Reports suggest the administration is mulling a unilateral change to the taxation of capital gains that would add another $100 billion to the deficit. Another giant spending bill is on the horizon.

.. The party’s hypocrisy on the budget is not new. After Bill Clinton dramatically shrank both deficits and government spending as a share of the economy, George W. Bush took office and proceeded to dramatically increase both.

.. Through their actions, they have proven that they cared about the deficit primarily for its usefulness as a political cudgel, an easy way to curtail Democratic policy goals.

.. .. Think tanks from across the political spectrum estimate a Bernie Sanders-style single-payer system would cost around $32 trillion over a decade, and while that might be less, overall, than the current partially private system, the challenge would be to finance the enormous increase in government spending on health care.

.. both her errors and answers seemed to suggest that finding plausible ways to finance the full cost of her policies is not exactly at the top of her agenda.

.. there is already a movement within liberal policy circles arguing that debt and deficits are far less important than most lawmakers have assumed.

.. although Republicans will surely attack the new class of Democratic Socialists and their policies as debt-increasing budget busters — that is, after all, what Republicans do — their own actions will ensure that those criticisms have no real authority. Their opposition to the socialist agenda will be hollow, because they helped make that agenda possible.

Budgets, Bad Faith and ‘Balance’

Over the past couple of months Republicans have passed or proposed three big budget initiatives.

  1. First, they enacted a springtime-for-plutocrats tax cut that will shower huge benefits on the wealthy while offering a few crumbs for ordinary families — crumbs that will be snatched away after a few years, so that it ends up becoming a middle-class tax hike.
  2. Then they signed on to a what-me-worry budget deal that will blow up the budget deficit to levels never before seen except during wars or severe recessions.
  3. Finally, the Trump administration released a surpassingly vicious budget proposal that would punish not just the vulnerable but also most working families.

.. Washington is full of professional centrists, whose public personas are built around a carefully cultivated image of standing above the partisan fray, which means that they can’t admit that while there are dishonest politicians everywhere, one party basically lies about everything.

News organizations are intimidated by accusations of liberal bias, which means that they try desperately to show “balance” by blaming both parties equally for all problems.

Fraudulence of the Fiscal Hawks

In 2011, House Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, issued a report full of dire warnings about the dangers of budget deficits.

.. Citing the horrors of big deficits, Republicans refused to raise the federal debt ceiling

.. How big were these horrifying deficits? In the 2012 fiscal year the federal deficit was $1.09 trillion. Much of this deficit, however, was a direct result of a depressed economy

.. If anything, we should be using this time of relatively full employment to pay down debt, or at least reduce it relative to G.D.P.

.. They are providing more stimulus to an economy with 4 percent unemployment than they were willing to allow an economy with 8 percent unemployment.

.. Republicans weren’t just vehemently opposed to fiscal stimulus; they were also vehemently opposed to monetary stimulus. Basically, they were against anything that might help the economy on President Obama’s watch.

.. imposing austerity in a depressed economy, then running up the deficit when we’re already near full employment

Trump attacks Corker, who responds by calling the White House ‘adult day care’

President Trump instigated an extraordinary feud Sunday with Sen. Bob Corker, a senior Republican who holds sway over the administration’s foreign and domestic policy agenda, prompting the Tennessean to charge that the White House had devolved into “an adult day care center.”

.. The trash talk not only breaches what had been one of Trump’s few personal relationships on Capitol Hill, but also jeopardizes the president’s legislative priorities. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker will help determine the future of the Iran nuclear deal, and his support will be critical in passing sweeping tax cuts.

.. Corker tweeted a biting retort: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.

.. Corker told reporters that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly “are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

.. Trump, who has little tolerance for public criticism and prides himself on counterpunching those who cross him, took to Twitter on Sunday to attack Corker.

.. Womack said Trump has repeatedly offered to support Corker, and as recently as last week asked the senator to change his mind and run for reelection.

“The president called Senator Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek reelection and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” Womack said in a statement.

.. Corker has been one of Tillerson’s few allies and staunch defenders in Washington, working closely on such issues as toughening sanctions on Russia and engaging North Korea diplomatically — two issues on which Trump has disagreed with Corker.

.. Corker also looks to play a key role in the upcoming debate over taxes. One of the Senate’s most committed deficit hawks and outspoken members on budgetary issues, Corker already has expressed concerns with the Trump administration’s proposal on tax cuts, and his vote will be key to any deal getting done.

.. In recent months, Trump has also gone after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) with cutting and sometimes personal insults.

.. Republican lawmakers and operatives have voiced exasperation that Trump is spending his time attacking senators he will need as allies if he hopes to sign any signature legislation.

.. Corker was a prominent supporter of Trump’s 2016 campaign and one of the few Republicans with gravitas willing to embrace the reality television star’s candidacy before he won the GOP nomination.

.. Corker also helped tutor Trump on foreign affairs, and he in turn considered the senator as a possible running mate and secretary of state.

.. In August, Corker criticized Trump’s handling of the deadly white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, saying, “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

.. Corker urged Trump to visit Alabama and campaign alongside Strange in the closing days of the runoff campaign, and the president now partly blames Corker for encouraging him to get involved in a contest that has hurt his political standing

.. thinks Corker feels free to speak his mind now that he is not seeking reelection.