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.