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Who They’re Supposed To Be

February 1, 2010

I’m prepared to sound like a colossal geek here, but I’m excited that Ezra Klein finally posted a graph of revenues, spending, and the deficit over the past 30 years, because the last time I saw one I lost it and was unable to retrieve it:

His point:

What you’ll see is that the budgets for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 look pretty different than the rest of the graph. Revenues drops, spending rises, and deficits, as you’d expect, skyrocket. But the expected deficit moving into 2013 and beyond looks pretty much like the deficits across the rest of the graph. So too do the predictions for revenues and spending. That’s the thing about extraordinary times. By definition, they end. Normalcy returns.

Yeah, no surprise there.  But this graph is interesting for different reasons, particularly the spending/revenue lines.  The Democrats held the House majority from 1981-1995, and the Republicans then held it until 2007, since when it has been Democratic.  Notice how spending, despite a few oscillations, remained steady throughout the 80s in correspondence to revenue.  Starting in ’93 (oddly enough) and continuing until ’02, spending gradually declined while revenue gradually increased.

As much as I and some liberals enjoy lambasting the Republicans for preaching small government while not practicing it, the fact is that before Bush, the Republican House of Representatives (the body that most affects the pricetag of legislation) did indeed turn spending in the right direction.  After ’02, spending increased (partly because of the war and partly because of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism”) and revenue dropped (the Bush tax cuts).  The hectic lines at the end of the curve are clearly results of the recession, although I have my doubts about the decreasing nature of the pink line post-2012.

Point being: Republicans need to quit acting like Democrats.  I know that’s not a novel concept, but it helps to visualize it like this.  The GOP needs a plan for dealing with specific spending cuts–and there are none more glaring than Medicare and Social Security.  The Party can’t be too afraid of the elderly to stand up for decreased government spending–that was one of their defining principles for a long time, and they have yet to realize that they got away from it.

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