Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dave Johnson Headshot

Cut What?

Posted: Updated:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF). I am a Fellow with CAF.

Here's an easy way to win an argument with a conservative over taxes and spending. Hand the conservative a piece of paper, a pencil and a calculator and ask him or her to write down exactly what spending they would cut, and by how much. And ask them to keep writing until they balance the budget.

There is a reason they are always calling for spending but they will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever say WHAT spending they mean to cut. That reason is simple: except for military spending the problem is not spending. It is the tax cuts, first under Reagan and then under W.

Monday Bill Scher posted, Sen. McConnell, If We're Really Spending Too Much, Why Can't You Say What You'd Cut?,

The fact is the only way to eliminate deficits solely by cutting spending along is to completely hobble our retirement security, shred our social safety net, condemn us to energy dependence, prevent the next generation from competing in the global economy and ensure a jobless recovery.

And there is no way conservatives are willing to spell that out and have a honest debate about their dark vision for an austere America.

The conservative movement is eager to shift the frame of debate away from how to deliver on the mandate for progressive change that swept Obama into office, and towards a debate on who can gut government the most.

There you have it. It isn't about spending, it's about government and democracy. We, the People paid taxes and built up an infrastructure and that infrastructure enabled the prosperity that we enjoyed for decades. Then came Reaganism and the tax cuts, the dramatic increases in military spending and the gutting of government services meant for the people. We started borrowing and borrowing. We stopped modernizing our infrastructure -- even stopped maintaining it. We started selling off ("privatizing") the public structures that had enabled all of us to live well. Income and wealth and power shifted up and up as wages and opportunities went down and down. And here we are.

So the next time you hear a conservative talk about how bad the deficits and debt are -- the deficits and debt caused by the failure of conservative policies -- ask that conservative this question: cut what? And don't let them stop answering until their cuts add up to the $1.2 trillion deficit that the conservatives left behind.