You don’t say. Any comment, Rand Paul?
When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party. But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 8, 2018
It does seem that way, now that you mention it. And so I give you the dean of “conservative” talk radio, responding to a caller this afternoon who’s concerned that the new GOP budget will add $500 billion in spending. Combine that with the reduction in federal revenue from the new GOP tax cuts and we’re looking at a projected deficit of, no typo, $1.1 trillion in 2019. Two years ago the annual deficit was $439 billion. We’re going even further into debt and at a more rapid pace. That would have been grounds for across-the-board primary threats on the right just five years ago.
Now, though? Over to you, Rush:
And then I got to realizing that I think one of the reasons so many Republicans are signing on to this is a silly reason, but in their world it makes sense. We’ve got, if this happens, a two-year budget deal, right? You know what that means? They don’t have to worry about being blamed for a government shutdown for two years! That alone is worth signing it, is it not? They’re probably gonna throw a party tonight because they’re not gonna be blamed for a government shutdown…
I know I’m sounding kind of cynical here, but it’s not cynicism. It’s a realization that all the arguments, the budget fight every year is the best weapon the Democrats have to portray Republicans as racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, of no compassion, who hate and want to starve kids. It never changes. Meanwhile, we’re told that the national debt’s gonna wipe us out, that the deficit’s gonna wipe us out. We’ve gotta get a handle on the deficit. It’s growing because the national debt is growing.
And I know theoretically all this is bad, but in the real world all of the apocalyptic warnings I grew up hearing have yet to happen. The national debt has not choked us. The national debt is not destroyed us. We may be living in the middle of the destruction and don’t see it yet, but for some reason I didn’t get caught up in it. I think one of the reasons why is I’m not personally affected by these never ending allegations of being responsible for a government shutdown.
It’s not worth getting worked up about the debt because it’s bad politics and, when push comes to shove, it hasn’t destroyed us yet. Imagine floating that argument to the populist right circa 2012 about an Obama budget.
Philip Klein knows the truth. The debt is more of a threat than ever, especially after this budget-busting bill, but Trump’s victory in 2016 proved that even most Republicans don’t care about it. “For all Trump has done to disrupt politics,” writes Klein, referring to the GOP’s brief flirtation with entitlement reform earlier this decade, “this is one area in which he has helped return the GOP to their more traditional posture.” Right. Rush amassed the biggest audience in conservative media and a mountain of media by knowing what his audience wanted to hear and delivering it to them with flair. In 2012 they wanted to hear that Obama was destroying America with profligate spending. In 2018 they want to hear that Trump and the Republican majority aren’t destroying America with even more profligate spending. In both cases Rush reassured them that they were right. They don’t really care so neither does he.
Although, as arguably the most prominent conservative in all of American media, he probably should care, huh? Paul Ryan, the man who spearheaded that push to reform entitlements earlier this decade, now presides over the House where he’ll spearhead passage of this new garbage spending bill. He should care too. But neither does. Ask yourself how much an ideological movement is worth when even its leading lights palpably don’t take it seriously.
As for Rand Paul, as I write this as at 7 p.m. ET he’s speaking on the Senate floor threatening to block the Republican bill because it’s big government on steroids. A taste:
Sen. Rand Paul on the new senate spending bill: "If you were against President Obama's deficits, and now you're for the Republican deficits, isn't that the very definition of hypocrisy?" https://t.co/EPCvGs13hW pic.twitter.com/24yiMZ7ZqG
— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2018
If he follows through on his promise to bottle up a floor vote, we’ll be looking at a shutdown at midnight. It’s grand of him to take a stand here, however futilely, but the party has moved even further from his position than it stood at the height of the tea-party era. And Rand himself is slippery when it comes to deficits. He voted for the Republican tax cuts knowing that they wouldn’t generate enough economic growth in themselves to offset the reduction in revenue. He also knew full well that his party wouldn’t listen to his pleas for drastic cuts in spending to pay for that revenue reduction. Which is to say, by voting for the tax cuts, Paul effectively voted for much bigger deficits. It’s sweet of him to cover his ass now by grandstanding about the new bill but it’s essentially theater, a fig leaf to protect his libertarian cred.
Here’s Rush talking deficits today. Exit quotation from a House GOP staffer, speaking to Politico: “Our party is worthless.”