|Jonah Goldberg||January 18th 2013|
Dear Socially Liberal Fiscal-Conservative Friend, Thatâ€™s pretty toothy, so Iâ€™m going to call you â€œBob.â€
But whatever specific name you go by, Bob, you know who you are. Youâ€™re the sort of person who says to his conservative friends or co-workers something like, â€œI would totally vote for Republicans if they could just give up on these crazy social issues.â€
When you explain your votes for Barack Obama, you talk about how Republicans used to be much more moderate and focused on important things such as low taxes, fiscal discipline, and balanced budgets.
When Colin Powell was on "Meet the Press" the other day, you nodded along as he lamented how the GOP has lost its way since the days when it was all about fiscal responsibility. And, Bob, you think Republicans are acting crazy-pants on the debt ceiling. You donâ€™t really follow all of the details, but you can just tell that the GOP is being â€œextreme,â€ thanks to those wacky tea partiers.
So, Bob, as a â€œfiscal conservative,â€ what was so outrageous about trying to cut pork â€” Fisheries in Alaska! Massive subsidies for Amtrak! â€” from the Sandy disaster-relief bill? What was so nuts about looking for offsets to pay for it?
Bob, Iâ€™m going to be straight with you. I never had much respect for your political acumen before, but youâ€™re a sucker. Youâ€™re still spouting this nonsense about being fiscally conservative while insisting that the GOP is the problem. You buy into the mediaâ€™s anti-Republican hysteria no matter what the facts are. Heck, you even believe it when Obama suggests heâ€™s like an Eisenhower Republican.
Well, letâ€™s talk about Eisenhower, your kind of Republican. Did you know that in his famous farewell address he warned about the debt? â€œWe cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage,â€ he said. â€œWe want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.â€
Bob, we are that insolvent phantom, you feckless, gormless clod. The year Eisenhower delivered that speech, U.S. debt was roughly half our GDP. But that was when we were still paying off WWII (not to mention things like the Marshall Plan), and the defense budget constituted more than half the U.S. budget (today itâ€™s a fifth and falling). Now, the debt is bigger than our GDP. Gross Domestic Product is barely $15 trillion. The national debt is over $16 trillion and climbing â€” fast. The country isnâ€™t going broke, Bob, it is broke.
When George W. Bush added nearly $5 trillion in national debt in two terms you were scandalized. When Obama added more than that in one term, you yawned. When, in 2006, then-senator Obama condemned Bushâ€™s failure of leadership and vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling, you thought him a statesman. Obama, who wants to borrow trillions more, now admits that was purely a â€œpolitical vote.â€
Yet when Republicans actually have the courage of Obamaâ€™s own convictions, you condemn them.
You nodded sagely when Obama said we needed a â€œbalanced approachâ€ to cut the deficit. He said he couldnâ€™t rein in entitlements without also raising taxes on â€œmillionaires and billionaires.â€ Well, he won that fight. We raised taxes on millionaires and billionaires exactly as much as he wanted. We also raised the payroll tax on everyone.
Obamaâ€™s response to getting the tax hikes he wanted? He says we still need a â€œbalanced approachâ€ â€” i.e., even more tax hikes.
Anyone who calls himself a fiscal conservative understands we have a spending problem. Do the math. A two-earner couple who retired in 2011 after making $89,000 per year will have paid about $114,000 into Medicare over their lifetimes but will receive $355,000. When will it dawn on you that Obama doesnâ€™t think we have a spending problem? I ask because when he said â€œwe donâ€™t have a spending problem,â€ it seemed to have no effect on you.
And yet you still think Paul Ryanâ€™s budget was â€œextreme.â€ Do you know when it balanced the budget? 2040. Whatâ€™s a non-extreme date to balance the budget, Bob? 2113?
Look, Bob, I donâ€™t want to go spelunking in that cranium of yours. I donâ€™t know why you think youâ€™re a fiscal conservative. The simple fact is, youâ€™re not. The green-eye-shaded Republicans you claim to miss would be scandalized by the mess weâ€™re in, largely thanks to voters like you, Bob. Eisenhower would take a flamethrower to todayâ€™s Washington.
I donâ€™t expect you to vote Republican, never mind admit youâ€™re simply a liberal. But please stop preening about your fiscal conservatism, particularly as you condemn the GOP for not being fiscal conservatives, even when they are the only fiscal conservatives in town.
Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of The Tyranny of ClichÃ©s.