The graph at right shows us the US national debt in billions of dollars by year and President, conveniently colored in accordance with political affiliation. Props to Smick, who sent me this wonderful gift and the crooksandliars.com article that accompanies it over the weekend. First of all, don’t let this graph get into a time machine somehow, because it will make George Washington’s head explode. Second of all, the Bush tax cuts are estimated to have added $2.5 trillion to the debt from over the 2001-2010 period. As Susie “The Anagram” Madrak over at C&L points out, that just happens to be two and a half times the cost of the House’s health care bill. Smell that? That’s some sweet, delicious hypocrisy, right there, and arrayed in their Kiss the Cook aprons are several Republican members of Congress, including John Boehner (R–OH, net worth $1.7–$6 million.) He’s just one of the many valiant defenders of fiscal responsibility who oppose health care reform because it will add to our $12 trillion national debt, but voted overwhelmingly to pass the Bush tax cuts.
While Real Americans(tm) line up to be lectured on the importance of hard work and America, the eggheads over at Citizens For Tax Justice have been crunching numbers, and the results are ugly. The Bush tax reforms not only cost us two and a half trillion dollars, but they also gave a dazzling 52.5% of that money to the wealthiest 5% of American citizens. By the end of 2010, when the last of the Bush cuts has been phased in, the richest 1% of Americans will see an average reduction in their annual tax bills of $483,000 apiece. The average annual cut for middle-income taxpayers will come to $659. To be fair, A) that’s still like sixty copies of “The Christmas Sweater,” right there, and B) those tax cuts totally stimulated the economy, right? Oh, right. As CTJ drily puts it, “The projected cost of the Bush tax cuts is slightly less than we projected previously. This is mainly because of the economic downturn, which has reduced incomes.”
Perhaps, after seeing George W. Bush jack up the federal deficit with multi-trillion-dollar giveaways that had no measurable positive effect on the US economy, John Boehner and the rest of the Republican Party have simply learned an important lesson about fiscal responsibility that they’re now applying to health care. Then again, maybe they just hate poor people. The substantial difference between the Bush tax cuts and the House health care bill is that one of them helped the GOP’s money base. “Their position seems to be that showering benefits on the wealthiest five percent of taxpayers and leaving the bill for future generations is preferable to making health care available for all at a much lower cost and paying that cost up front,” says CTJ. “That demonstrates a different set of priorities than most Americans have, but it doesn’t demonstrate much concern about costs.”
Neither does the graph above. It refutes conclusively, in numbers and lines without any tricky language or biased rhetoric, the notion that modern Republicans have been fiscal conservatives while modern Democrats have been spendthrifts. At this point, the difference between conservatives and liberals lies not in their willingness to spend money, but in what they’re willing to spend that money on. Both parties seem hell-bent on running a line of credit—although Bill Clinton made an admirable run at changing that before the White House was handed over to the alcoholic son of a former President who claimed to be able to talk to God. The difference is that the Democrats want to put groceries and penicillin on your kids’ Mastercards, whereas the Republicans want to max out on fur coats.
Whether either position is responsible is a subject of debate. It’s absolutely disingenuous, though, for Republicans to pretend they’re against health care on fiscal grounds. They have no more concern for the national debt than does the other side of the aisle, and in the last thirty years they’ve shown demonstrably less. “You can’t spend money you don’t have” is a much more compelling argument than “You can’t spend money you don’t have to help the poor,” but it’s an argument the right shouldn’t be allowed to make anymore. They don’t believe it, and the proof is in the way they vote.