During a radio interview this morning, I was asked if I thought Nancy Pelosi was nuts for saying during a Fox News interview on Sunday, “It’s almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem. We have a budget deficit problem that we have to address.”
She’s not nuts, although when she says stuff like this, it sounds appropriately deranged. She’s only delivering a blunt summary of Democrat Party orthodoxy, which holds two core beliefs about the deficit:
1. Deficit spending is no big deal, because it’s just a funny number on paper / money we owe ourselves / a problem we can deal with later.
2. The deficit is a clear indication that we need higher taxes.
Pelosi sounds like a loon because she reverted to argument (1) when the public still clearly remembers the entire Democrat Party howling argument (2) at the moon during the “fiscal cliff” crisis. We just endured weeks of windy lectures from Barack Obama and other Party leaders about how tax increases were vitally necessary to deal with the urgent problem of the deficit. It’s too early to go back to “it’s not really anything to worry about, and if anything, we really need the government to spend even more money.”
She does mention the deficit problem, but only in the context of demanding higher tax increases. Of course, she would never be willing to discuss the immense middle-class taxes Democrats would have to impose, if they were going to make a serious effort at actually resolving that deficit through taxation; and of course, the effort would push the moribund Obama economy over the edge into recession, or worse. And if she’s not ready to call for resolving all but the last dregs of the deficit with tax increases… why, then yes, Mrs. Pelosi, you are conceding that we have a spending problem.
Someone should ask people like Pelosi to take a stab at guessing how much money Obama’s inaugural wish list, or the new programs he’ll be outlining in the State of the Union, will cost. If she thinks the deficit is a problem, then surely she won’t support imposing such programs without fully funding them. In that case, whose taxes would she raise, or what other spending would she cut?
For all the talk of a divided or unsettled Republican Party, the increasingly dire federal fiscal crisis is quietly creating an existential crisis between the Democrats who think the deficit is a meaningless distraction (i.e. Paul Krugman) and those who think it’s time to hand the middle class its fat new tax bill, before the United States suffers a round of credit downgrades that will eat away billions more in federal funding (i.e. Howard Dean.) The days when they can have it both ways grow short. Hopefully the days when a majority of Americans realize both ways are hideously wrong-headed are growing short, too.