Fiscal hypocrisy

FISCAL HYPOCRISY…. Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the costs of health care reform. “If you’re going to do something as comprehensive as the president wants to do,” the Kentucky Republican said, “you ought to pay for it.”

Jonathan Cohn agrees, but finds McConnell sudden interest in fiscal responsibility interesting.

…It’s important that reform pay for itself. Still, I don’t recall McConnell being quite so insistent about fiscal responsibility when he voted for the Bush tax cuts. Nor do I recall him agitating for tax increases to pay for the war with Iraq. In fact, I’m pretty sure most Republicans had very little use for arguments about fiscal responsibility when it was their initiatives on the agenda.

Gee, could it be that McConnell and the Republicans just don’t care what happens to people when they can’t pay for their medical care?

The record is strikingly clear. When Bush/Cheney slashed taxes by well over $1 trillion, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it. When Bush/Cheney started the war in Afghanistan, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it. When Bush/Cheney started the war in Iraq, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it. When Bush/Cheney added Medicare Part D, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it.

It’s not that their efforts at paying for it came up short, it’s that they didn’t even try. The notion of fiscal responsibility was simply deemed irrelevant — an inconvenient detail for unnamed people in the future to worry about.

And now, these exact same policymakers are, with a straight face, complaining bitterly about the fiscal habits of Democrats who are — in case anyone’s forgotten — actually trying to pay for much-needed health care reform.

There’s just one angle I’d add to this, though. While Cohn is clearly right about the selective concerns from McConnell and congressional Republicans, let’s also not forget that there are a handful of Democrats who have the same problem. Ben Nelson and Max Baucus, for example, both voted for Bush’s tax cuts, funding for both of the Bush-launched wars, and spending on Bush’s Medicare Part D, without so much as a hint about how to pay for them.

Now, Nelson and Baucus are suddenly deeply concerned about whether the country can really afford health care reform, and in Nelson’s case, whether Democrats should even be allowed to vote on their own reform plan in the Senate.

It’s maddening.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.