It’s to James Taranto I turn this afternoon; although I typically read him for the entertainment value, there’s usually a solid core in his “Best of the Web” column as well. One of the Mad Dog’s pet memes is the idea that conservatives who are unwilling to hike taxes aren’t really serious about the deficit. In his column today, Taranto looks at Paul Ryan, who would not be a real deficit hawk by the Mad Dog’s standard. And in a sense, the Dog has a point. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that, as Taranto explains (links in original):
Ryan did say: “In this generation, a defining responsibility of government is to steer our nation clear of a debt crisis while there is still time.” He is concerned about the debt, and he has plenty of reason to be.
But a mere deficit hawk wouldn’t have said this: “None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers, a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.” A deficit hawk is averse, above all, to debt; a small-government conservative, to coercion. A deficit hawk doesn’t mind big government, as long as it’s paid for with high taxes.
[… However,] The resurgence of small-government conservatism, personified by Paul Ryan, owes a lot to Obama, who came to office bent on “fundamentally transforming” America–i.e., on quickly and vastly expanding the welfare state. He apparently expected this to be easy, as everything else in his life has been, but even he didn’t dare call for tax increases, except on “the rich.”As blogger Ira Stoll notes, a recent New York Times editorial let the mask slip: “Higher taxes for top earners is [sic] necessary for the nation to begin to raise the revenue it needs. And until the rich pay more, there will never be a national consensus for tax increases on middle-income Americans, which will eventually be needed to further curb long-term deficits.”
That statement is true only if one assumes that the growth of the welfare state is inexorable, that curtailing or cutting it back is forbidden. The Times, of course, is ideologically committed to that proposition, but there is no reason the country as a whole has to be[.]
The Mad Dog is committed to the proposition as well, and tries to make a perfect position on the deficit an enemy of the good, so that his beloved ever-expanding State can continue to burgeon. But of course, shrinking the State will also shrink the deficit, so complaining that it’s not an all-out assault on that deficit is merely misdirection. But from spiels about dogs on rooftops to Larry O’Donnell’s claim that golf references are racist to deliberately missing a point about a factory’s failure to come back in order to split hairs about when it failed, misdirection is all his side has these days.
And now the Mad Dog has someone else to loathe as much as he does Jonah Goldberg. So life is pretty good.
My rant in this area is really focused on those who claim the deficit is the single biggest threat to this country’s future. It was a really popular idea last year when the republicans were holding the governments credit rating hostage. It seemed to me the idea of being a deficit hawk was used with that idea interchangeably. Obviously it should be a more nuanced issue, but if you’re going to engage in the hyperbole of EVERYTHING IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN THE DEFICIT, then I feel the need to rant against your hypocrisy.
There’s a vast host of things more immediately important than the deficit. But Obama isn’t doing much of anything about them either. He’s an empty suit in an empty chair. The Man Who Fooled the World.