It’s easy to blame Republicans who say it’s hard to pay for programs you have, or the military you want. But they’re wrong. The big deficit brought on by tax cuts and defense spending is unfair to those who already pay enough in taxes to get the benefits you want.
And Trump himself is partly to blame. He owes his job to his resentment of “babies,” and his need to build a base of ungrateful white men who always vote for the Republicans. So much for his claim, first made at his 1994 speech to a group of Boy Scouts, that you can’t make a clean break with your past.
To explain why that resentment leads Republicans to let the gap between what they want for the country, and the projected deficits grow, I spoke with James Pethokoukis, who runs the American Enterprise Institute’s blog “Unconventional Wisdom” as well as the Washington Examiner’s “Room for Debate.”
More than three decades ago, in his first book, The Case for Reagan, Carl Bernstein drew a conclusion that still rings true: “Over the course of his presidential career, Reagan proceeded to shift the balance of power in this country among whites, between working-class whites and the elite.”
And of course all Americans should be concerned about the widening gap between rich and poor, because if a growing majority of Americans are poor, that implies a growing segment of the electorate that’s falling into poverty.
What’s interesting is that so many Republicans went along with “raising taxes on the rich,” only to slam the door on raising taxes on the wealthy when it came time to reduce the deficit.
Hence that closed-door Republican Party consensus that, “Just give the money back to the people you gave it to,” Pethokoukis said. “Those were the rules that the base agreed to.”
“That’s how modern Republicans got to power,” Pethokoukis said. “Trying to cast aspersions on poor people and immigrants. That is so embedded in our politics that a lot of Republicans say, ‘OK, what do we say? Do we just decry the fact that there is a growing, crippling, massive deficit with no way of paying for it?’ ”
But that wouldn’t be an effective argument. People won’t think that. So what is effective?
“The good old-fashioned borrowing by saying: ‘We can’t pay for that,’” Pethokoukis said. “That’s how our politics works.”
Actually, the party had a slogan in the run-up to the 2016 election: “Vote Republican or pay higher taxes.”
Other than that campaign slogan, they hadn’t much said. But they saw that slogan. Because they played by it.