"Liberal scare tactics: Death by government cuts"
Liberal assertions that cuts in government spending will cause certain death are nothing new. Sixteen years ago this week, Krugman’s fellow columnist Bob Herbert warned New York Times readers that the welfare reform bill Republicans were then debating in the Senate “would hurt many people, would kill some and would help no one.”
Herbert could not have been much farther from the mark. Two years later, after President Clinton had signed welfare reform into law, New York Times journalist Jason DeParle reported that “welfare rolls have fallen more than 40 percent in three states that have been among the most energetic in urging recipients to work: Oregon, Wisconsin and Indiana. And caseloads have declined by 25 percent or more in 16 other states.” DeParle’s article said nothing about people dying in the streets of Portland, Milwaukee or Indianapolis.
More recently, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein accused Sen. Joe Liebermann, I-Conn., of being “willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands” because he threatened not to vote for Obamacare.
Klein relied on a flawed study as evidence for this hyperbolic claim. Krugman and Herbert had no evidence whatsoever. But the bottom line is that facts and evidence make little difference in such cases. Liberals are always going to claim that conservative resistance to their big government plans will result in untold human misery and death. They will fight conservative insistence on spending cuts by claiming that mere fiscal probity in government would result in millions dying hungry in our streets. After crying wolf so often, they’ve lost their credibility. Their apocalyptic pronouncements are greeted with disbelief even by most liberals.
If the United States is ever to end its addiction to government dependency and rein in out-of-control spending, policymakers must shrug off the fear-mongering of the Krugmans, Herberts and Kleins of the world. Ryan tells CNN he is doing just that. In his words, “I gave fear up for Lent this year.” Other conservatives should follow his lead.
First, let me make clear that I do believe that shrugging off fear-mongering is important. But more important is how we do so — and as I’ve been urging for years now, the way to do so most effectively and permanently is through a reclamation of language.
To wit: relying on accepted, bipartisan political parlance, spending “cuts” are nothing more than cuts to the rate of future spending, spending that increases automatically at a rate that exceeds the rate of inflation. And so “draconian” “spending cuts” are really nothing more than cuts to the amount of its yearly raise the government grants itself.
Once people understand that, threats of “cuts” harming people are seen for what they are: a suggestion that reality itself, which previously existed on specific rates of spending without leaving in its wake a host of dead and dying citizens denied a social safety net, is lying to them.
Similarly, “loopholes” in the tax code aren’t loopholes at all, but are rather portions of the tax code that grant deductions for certain things under certain conditions, and as such are perfectly legal. Want to make such “loopholes” obsolete and make sure “everyone pays their fair share” and “has skin in the game”? Propose a flat tax.
For as long as I can remember we have allowed the left to frame the terms of debate. But the real tragedy is how the ostensible “right” has simply conceded such framing as a kind of natural state of affairs, agreeing to live and operate inside such parameters.
Or perhaps “tragedy” is the wrong word; because frankly, I think many in the establishment right have learned to embrace to framing and to live comfortably inside it as part of a permanent ruling structure that transcends party. Why else would “our” Congressional leadership, who surely knows that such framing is dishonest and misleading, continue to accept it and operate within its rhetorical dictates?
In short, these scare tactics aren’t relegated to liberals. And until we conservatives and constitutionalists insist that our representatives resist the very framing that provides them their political power at our expense, we are merely aiding in our own mugging.