Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Bartlett’

Missing the Obvious

December 17, 2009

Former Bush 43 advisor Bruce Bartlett suggests left and right strike a bargain:

The left would accept that the only purpose of the tax system is to raise revenue and the right would accept that a fairly extensive social welfare state is here to stay. In essence, conservatives would r[a]ise the revenue and liberals would spend it. . .

Over the years, I have asked a number of liberal friends if they would take this deal . . . It seems like a free lunch to me, but I’ve never found a liberal willing to even consider the deal.

I’m not sure what Bartlett’s thinking.  What he describes is pretty much exactly what happened during the Bush administration he was part of.

That’s counter-intuitive because the GOP controlled both revenue and spending for most of the Bush administration.  However, the way they ran things was they raised revenues like conservatives, and spent as if they were liberals.*  (This was what W called “compassionate conservatism.”)

Let’s look at both sides of the equation.

On the revenue side, one of the first things the GOP did when W took office was pass a huge tax cut.  This is not surprising.  This is what American conservatives do.  It’s been dogma on the right for almost 30 years: the only thing you ever do to taxes is cut them.

On the expenditure side, they passed huge social welfare bills like Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind, and bought two money-pit Muslim countries in middle Asia.


The same as the first time the GOP tried this formula, under Reagan: budget deficits.  Great big ones.


The reason none of Bartlett’s liberal friends will accept a deal in which conservatives raise the revenue and liberals spend it is they know it’s a mug’s game.  In very short order, there would be barely enough revenue to survive.

(* I say this from Bartlett’s point of view, of course.  From my own point of view, they didn’t spend like liberals.  They just spent a lot.)