Let's Not Let the Deficit Cause Us To Lose Sight of What is Important

This chart has been floating around liberal sites, ostensibly, I suppose, to make the point that the deficit is President Bush’s fault and has nothing to do with Obama:

Debt Comparison


I want to use it to make another point. While I appreciate all of the political ground we have gained over the last few months by focusing public attention on the deficit, I would not want us to go so far as to start to believe our own rhetoric that deficit reduction (or even spending reduction) should be a primary concern.

When Vice President Cheney said that “Deficits don’t matter,” he was not wrong. He was, perhaps, a bit incomplete. The real point is that “Deficits might matter a little bit, but they don’t matter as much as a lot of other things.”

Look at that chart again. Look at what makes up the lion’s share of that deficit–tax cuts and the wars. What of that would you eliminate? Would you have told the 9/11 victims that we didn’t have the money to go to war to prevent another tragedy like that? Do you want to give your tax cut back to the treasury? I doubt it.

The deficit has been GREAT for us, don’t get me wrong. It, alone, should allow the GOP to win 3 or 4 election cycles in a row. So, of course, we need to keep talking about “the problem of the deficit.” But, let’s remember that, when the rubber meets the road, how much money we spend barely matters. What does matter is what we spend the money on.

The end game here is the de facto elimination of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Welfare State. But it is also tax cuts and the strongest military in the world. I would not want to lose those last two at the false altar of “deficit reduction.”