Friday, September 25, 2009

What about Iraq?

Bruce Bartlett's Forbes article is quite good. He provides an historical analysis of conservative views on balancing the budget (it used to be a central priority, and now it isn't) and basically argues that "starving the beast" hasn't worked, and then culminates with Bush's budget-busting spending programs.

This is all largely correct, but Bartlett doesn't mention the wars Bush wanted to fight on the cheap. In the history of America, wars have traditionally been financed by higher taxes to pay for increased spending. This is how it happened under conservative Republican President William McKinley, and it's how it happened under liberal Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt. Wartime tax hikes, along with the increase in government power that accompanies all wars, are the reasons why the right has traditionally been identified with isolationist politics and virulently resisted involvement in WWII until Pearl Harbor. Bush, however, didn't think that even fighting a war was a good reason to raise taxes. This, to me, stands as the more damning indictment of modern conservatism. It's one thing to think that we should lower taxes without cutting spending. It's another thing entirely to think that we should just put wars on our tab, and that paying for a war is some sort of Randian economic servitude. The first is just often irresponsible. The second is simply insane, and says both that the GOP cares more about keeping wealthy people rich than fighting "the greatest moral challenge of our generation" (which seems to be true), and that the GOP really does feel that historical norms and economic analysis shouldn't be binding upon them, and that they're an institution that essentially exists outside of history. Someone ought to send them a copy of The Glass Bead Game.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.