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War and Deficit

Since Michael Totten approved of this I'd just like to point out that the president's bizarre fiscal policies aren't just -- or even primarily -- an economic problem. They endanger our security as well. The sort of a "war on terrorism" that intelligent people think we're in -- a prolonged ideological struggle with military, diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement, and domestic security elements -- is bound to cost a lot of money. And not in a one-off way like world war two, but in a semi-permanent way like the coldwar. The semi-permanence of the needed expenditures is key, it's not the sort of thing that can be financed through wartime deficits that we'll confidently pay back once peace has returned. We need to budget for these things as if the emergency will never end. That's not to say that the emergency won't ever end, but simply that it will take a long time, it's impossible to say exactly how long, and whatever we do we want to make it credible that we'll keep on doing it for as long as it takes.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink


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» Bad Econ from Michael J. Totten
The economic case against George W. Bush is straightforward, and Matthew Yglesias nails it in three sentences.Kerry can be maddeningly vague at times, but in a broad sense one knows where he stands -- the government should spend more money... [Read More]

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It is worth noting that, in fact, given that the administration has tried to treat iraq as an off-budget item as far as possible, it's fair to treat it as the marginal expenditure that chinese and japanese central bankers are loaning us money to support. I say this not in a xenophobic way, but rather to note that it's rather, in one of matthew's favorite words, bizarre that we are increasingly turning control over american interest rates to strategic rivals in the name of enhancing national security....

Posted by: howard | Jul 31, 2004 7:18:01 PM

Too bad his comment thread immediately goes into a debate over the urgent question of whether John Kerry is secretly a communist. But I guess that isn't Totten's fault.

Posted by: JP | Jul 31, 2004 7:49:41 PM

Its a nice argument in theory, but if Kerry is really intending to:

1. Spend 90 billion a year extending govt. coverage to catastrophic health care

2. Only raise taxes on the "upper 2%"

3. Not really cut spending anywhere else.
(If he's proposed real cuts, besides meaningless blather about "pay as you go" I haven't seen it.)

Then the fiscal competition between him and Bush is a wash. The health care initiative eats up the extra tax revenue, and we're left with basically
the same deficit. Unless the argument is that Kerry Magic will entrance the Euros into doubling their defence spending, allowing us to withdraw wholesale from Iraq.

Posted by: rd | Jul 31, 2004 8:35:16 PM

rd, that's part of the argument, but the further part of the argument is that kerry will attempt to return to pay-as-you-go and strict limits agreements with congress on budgeting to slow the explosive rate of spending increase that bush has brought us.

Me? I've got nothing against that, but i think he should also push for repeal of the wretched medicare drug benefit to demonstrate his bona fides on fiscal discipline, but i'll admit, i see little chance of that happening....

Posted by: howard | Jul 31, 2004 8:37:35 PM

JP: Too bad his comment thread immediately goes into a debate over the urgent question of whether John Kerry is secretly a communist. But I guess that isn't Totten's fault.

It certainly isn't my fault, and it's damned annoying. I got both of said commenters to climb down, though, at least.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten | Jul 31, 2004 9:14:46 PM

Reagan proved that deficits don't matter, fools.

Just cut *all* taxes (it is our money, you know), and keep growing government by double figures. Conservatism at its best.

Posted by: MattB | Jul 31, 2004 10:31:03 PM

Kerry also has some ideas about cutting loopholes out of the tax code to force the Bermuda tax haven exploiters to start paying their fair share again.

Posted by: Linkmeister | Aug 1, 2004 2:35:47 AM

I'm glad to see fiscal concerns are getting some attention. And it's delightful to notice they're being presented (correctly) as security problems. Even big money is worried about this.

Posted by: ~DS~ | Aug 1, 2004 4:29:33 AM

I suspect what we are seeing is that the democrats are starting to say think you Reagan and Cheney for showing us that deficts do not matter. Now we can provide unlimited funded to social programs and outbid the Rebublicans for votes.

Posted by: spencer | Aug 1, 2004 9:55:52 AM

I'm always momved to think of the American Revolution at a time like this. We didn't defeat the English because we were a better army (far from it), we beat them because they couldn't afford to fight us anymore. Ultimately, the decision to let the colonies go was an economic, not a military one.

This is why we can't afford to play Bush's irresponsible fiscal games. We've got an open-ended war against an enemy who can fight us on the cheap. We've got to figure out a way to beat him without destabilizing our economy. And Bush's little games make us less able to do that.

For that reason alone, we shouldn't re-elect him. He doesn't understand that this war can't be viewed as an isolated thing, and must be fought on many fronts.

Posted by: theorajones | Aug 1, 2004 1:21:43 PM

What annoys me most about this administration is that they act like everyone can have everything. No, Kerry didn't ask us to make any sacrifices in last Thursday's speech, but Bush is far worse. From reforming Social Security to defense and intelligence spending, they act like they have never heard of the phrase "There's no such thing as a free lunch." And even though there's a good chance that Kerry will go back on his pledge to leave tax guts for those making less than $200,000, I respect him for at least understanding that you can't have everything.

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