Why has the GOP stopped its complaints about the deficit? (Ted Kaufman, News Journal)

We have differed with many columns of the former US senator from Delaware, but this one makes an arguable case.

During a long career in the US senate (most of the 24 years as a staffer for Sen. Joe Biden), Kaufman no doubt does remember lots of GOP pontification “on fiscal responsibility and balancing the budget.” And it’s probably also true that this state of affairs was less pronounced “when there was a Republican president and Republicans could concentrate on their other favorite subject – cutting taxes.” Even then, however, they insisted “the tax cuts would pay for themselves” and presented themselves as "deficit hawks.”

Now, however, according to Kaufman, “I can’t recall any Republican talking about balancing the budget in the last few months.” And realistically how could they, after “we have witnessed the most extraordinary fiscal event in my memory – an unprecedented budget deficit created, not to combat a recession, but during a prolonged period of economic expansion.”

The recent deficit and debt data are alarming, no argument there, leading to CBO projections of trillion dollar deficits over the next decade and beyond. And what a contrast with the president’s upbeat campaign promises in 2016 re deficits receding due to faster economic growth (thanks to tax cuts and easing of regulations) and pruning of wasteful spending.

Recent polling by Pew Research is cited that this could be a major campaign issue, e.g., the poll found that 53% of Americans view federal budget deficits as a “very big” problem, ahead of terrorism (39%), racism (43%), or climate change (48%).

“You can’t envy the political problems Congressional Republicans will face in 2020. After decades of talk [about] their party’s fiscal responsibility, they suddenly have to defend exactly the opposite. *** Recent polling data from Pew Research [Center] indicates this could be a major issue in this campaign year. *** I’m looking forward to how [the GOP will] explain what has happened when Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress.”

Actually, the Pew polling results paint a somewhat different picture. First, budget deficits are of greater concern to Republicans than to Democrats. Second, concern about budget deficits hit higher levels during the Obama administration than it is now. As economic concerns recede, environmental protection rises on the public’s policy agenda, people-press.org, 2/13/20.

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Also, while the president’s fiscal track record is hardly exemplary, Sen. Kaufman omits an important aspect of the current situation, namely the manner in which congressional Democrats have fought the spending cuts reflected in the president’s budget proposals, e.g., BP-2021 (which was submitted to Congress last week). If the $4.6 trillion in net savings (over the next 10 years) in that budget were reflected in the CBO projections cited in Kaufman’s column, the situation would not appear so dire.

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