Republicans often bash Democrats for what they view as frivolous government spending and increased deficits. Talking points decrying “$800 dollar hammers from the pentagon” or excessive waste in basically any given government program are not uncommon. Coupled with talk of trillions of dollars in debt, large parts of it owed to countries like China, and it becomes a powerful cocktail that motivates people against “unreasonable deficit spending”. Alone that’s not too terrible a worldview, but add a propensity for heavy tax cuts and it becomes nothing more than a hypocritical exercise in misunderstanding what deficit spending actually is.
Which is a huge problem because there are a lot of policy realms where spending money saves money in the long run. Education and healthcare in particular, come to mind.
The entire Republican budget is centered on massive tax cuts and even bigger cuts to everything else to come as close as possible to funding them. Despite massive cuts in basically every realm of non military spending, it won’t come even close to making up for the nearly $1 trillion dollar deficit the Republican tax cut will bring in the years to come. Unfortunately that’s the thing about deficit spending Republicans don’t want you to know, they’re just fine with the deficit part, less fine with the spending.
Actually, they’re fine with the spending too, as long as it’s not a Democrat in office.
Republicans are more than willing to blow up the deficit for increased military spending. It wasn’t a problem under Ronald Reagan when he wanted to start an arms race with the Soviet Union, which admittedly may have been good foreign policy, but help set the stage for the populist backlash that was to come. A backlash that fueled people like Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan soon after Reagan left office and eventually Donald Trump decades later. The party didn’t mind military spending increases under George HW Bush to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Another pretty seamless foreign policy decision that wasn’t so kind to the deficit. And finally Republicans didn’t seem to bat an eye at the trillion plus dollar conflicts they signed up for in Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.
The thing is, two of the three administrations just mentioned also slashed taxes. There was literally no consideration of the deficit then and there has never actually been any real concern when Democrats try to enact their domestic agenda. It’s all just politics.
Despite the pretty shallow attempt at uploading any real consistency when it comes to deficit spending, it’s a powerful rhetorical tool that mobilizes many a voter to take to the ballot box in order to try and protect their hard earned tax dollars from winding up in the hands of someone they deem lazy or unworthy of help from the state. Which is unfortunate because in the long run just shelling out the money for universal access to public goods such as education and healthcare saves a lot of money in the long run. A lot more money than increased defense spending and tax cuts for billionaires ever has.
Everywhere in the world that has embarked on the journey that is publicly funding public goods such as healthcare and education has seen an incredible return in investment. Both a healthy and educated populace are tangible side effects that pay dividends for every single person in society. Everyone gains from increased productivity and increased quality of life, but financially it makes a lot of sense as well.
Take healthcare for example, in many communities the rate of uninsured is incredibly high, but when they need care they still get it at the emergency room. Most of these people’s care is still paid for, either out of their pocket, or by property taxes if they are unable to pay up. The same property taxes that generally fund schools in these communities. Which creates a downward spiral for communities that are both uninsured and have lower property value in general and therefore less money to pay both those unpaid medical costs and schooling to begin with. These are the communities that benefit the most from increased spending and many of them vote Republican time and time again.
As misguided as their vote may be, they have legitimate reasons, some cultural and hard to make sense of, but they aren’t going away. Unfortunately neither are Republicans selling out their constituents with poor thought out talking points and disastrous policy they know won’t help them.