It's been the mantra for decades, "Tax and Spend Democrat." An epithet Republicans learn as soon as they can speak.
"Tax and Spend Democrat" has been used with such relentless gagging angst and vilification that it's become the political equivalent of serving a plate of liver and onions for dinner. There is nothing worse in life, we are told, than to Tax and Spend.
But there is something much worse than to Tax and Spend. Significantly worse. It is to Spend, but Don't Tax.
Somewhere along the line, a little hocus-pocus has got the public thinking that not taxing is the same as not spending. This ledger-demain of confusion has been turned into an art form by the Bush Administration, best known in financial quarters as Spend, but Don't Tax Republicans.
Despite previously cutting taxes (while fighting two wars), the Republican-controlled Senate on March 16 approved a record-setting $2.8 trillion budget without even resorting to steroids. And this came hours after they increased the federal debt ceiling to almost $9 trillion.
Did some Democrats vote for this record-setting budget? In fairness, yes. One. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) joined Republicans in order to get desperate relief for her flyover state still devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
And in continued fairness, not all Republicans think it's good to Spend, but Not Tax. "It is very disturbing, and it gives me a whole lot of heartburn," said Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC). "They want to go and say they are helping people, but we are not helping people when we are selling out their future."
Whimsically, the very same day, the Republican-controlled House passed a $92 billion emergency spending bill that included $68 billion for the money vacuum of Iraq and Afghanistan. Voting against this un-taxed spending were 52 Democrats, with only 19 Republican Nays.
But this is hardly new news. Spending has increased more under George Bush in five years than in the full eight years of the evil Bill Clinton - rising 9% each year under Mr. Bush (which doesn't even include war defense expenditures), compared to only a 4% yearly increase for the evil, though fiscally-adept Mr. Clinton.
The sole, incontrovertible truth about these increases is that Republicans control the Senate, Republicans control the House, and Republicans control the White House. This is referred to in government circles as the Holy Trinity, or in senior citizen centers as "Bingo!!" The massive debt can only be laid at the feet of Spend, but Don't Tax Republicans. There's no one else standing in line. When you own the football, the field and the coach, you simply have to take responsibility. After all, this is the Era of Personal Responsibility that the President himself so forthrightly called for.
Increased spending by Republicans is not inherently wrong. But most fair-minded observers will acknowledge that if you're going to spend, you should ideally have the money to do so. Borrowing money and kiting hot checks can only get you in trouble with Louis the Enforcer, or the Chinese government, whoever comes knocking on your door first if you default your $700 billion loan.
Which brings us back to facing the only real problem in the casino. Spend, but Don't Tax Republicans.
The resulting national debt, the largest-ever in American history, doesn't just create actual problems for future "I don't care, I'll be dead then" generations, but today. If we piss off China for any reason ("Give us new episodes of 'Laverne & Shirley'! Now!" Or even, "Remove your ships, we are attacking Taiwan! Now!"), and they call in their loan, get into crash position.
"This budget could be the final nail in our coffin, if we don't watch it," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking of concerns for his party. "I don't think we properly understand the keys to our electoral success."
And this coffin lays at the feet of only one pair of shoes. However one feels about "Tax and Spend," it's at least a fiscally-honest way to create a budget. The overwhelming debt problems the country faces can solely be created by those who control the White House, Senate and House. And the correct phrase is Spend, but Don't Tax Republicans.