AND BE SURE TO KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE, OK?….Today in NRO, Bruce Bartlett provides a lesson in principled economic policy. The topic du jour is the possibility that Democrats are planning to make the budget deficit an issue in the 2004 campaign:

If this plan is successful, it could lead Republicans into the trap of doing some kind of major deficit reduction before the election. But to be meaningful, such a package would have to include tax increases and cuts in Medicare, especially if defense is off the table. This will open the door for Democrats to scare seniors and demoralize the Republican base.

Republicans need to be aware of what is happening and prepare themselves to respond to the deficit argument. Unfortunately, they cannot make the case that they have tried to limit the size of government but were stymied by Democrats. First, they haven’t even attempted to limit spending. Second, Republican control of Congress gives them no excuse.

….I think President Bush is smart enough not to fall into the trap Democrats are setting. As long as growth remains solid and jobs continue to increase, he will likely win re-election. But after the election, deficit reduction will become a high White House priority.

So: the deficit really is a big problem, it’s a problem we ourselves caused, and for the good of the country we need to do something about it. And there’s no question that raising taxes and cutting Medicare is going to be part of the solution.

But: we need to be sure to lie, lie, lie about this for the next 12 months. After all, cutting taxes is really popular, but cleaning up the mess it’s caused isn’t. Especially among seniors, and we sure don’t want to piss them off, do we? A lot of them live in Florida, after all.

I wonder what other unpleasant truths they’re planning to save up for November 3, 2004?

POSTSCRIPT: And for more NR-related belly laughs, Ted Barlow managed to get a secret copy of the itinerary for this year’s National Review cruise. Check it out.

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