Account Balance:


$480 billion

says the Congressional Budget Office. (Full report here)

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  1. Every time I see this stuff I get more pissed off. Republicans claim to be the fiscal grownups allthewhile doing economic policy on napkins and leaving us trillions in debt. They have done permanent damage to our economic future.

  2. As opposed to democrats….

  3. They’re a little better. The rate of increase in the debt was smaller during the Clinton administration that during the Reagan/Bush and the Bush II administrations. Of course celebrating that is like celebrating the fact that you only gained 40 pounds last year instead of 100…

  4. Democrats are only a little better because they had a surplus created by a hot economy.

  5. Lefty, you’re right. At least democrats prefer to keep their massive liabilities off the books.

  6. When the economy is in the tank, which it is, the government *should* run a deficit. It’s basic macro economics.

    Of course, it would be far better to run a deficit because of tax cuts than because of pork belly spending, but that seems unrealistic these days.

  7. When a Democrat is in the White House the Congressional Republicans mount effective opposition to the Democrat’s spending proposals. When a Republican is in the White House the Congressional Republicans are less likely to oppose new spending (after all, the “right kind of people” will be in charge of it) and the Congressional Democrats are too spineless and addicted to spending to mount opposition anyway.

    So if you want real checks and balances, the best bet is a GOP Congress and a Dem President.

  8. Entirely too much significance is put upon the party in power or administration, and too little upon the environment; what do I mean by this? Why, simple – given the right circumstances, anyone capable of getting into a position of power in the US will happily spend every cent they can get their hands on, reach for more in any way they can, and then proceed to spend money they don’t even have via credit, so long as it is personally profitable for them to do so – ie, sufficiently popular with those sufficiently powerful, including the citizenry. War is one of the biggest times when people suddenly take leave of their fiscal senses – even on things which have no real relation to the war itself; it almost seems instinctual.

    The parties and administrations don’t even matter; I highly doubt if you switched the individual parties and admins in and out that you’d end up with much different results in each given point in recent economic history.

    Governments, if they are permitted to do so, will eventually debase their currency (what are we up to in the US? 2 or 3 times so far?), max out their credit (consider personal debt figures in the US for the citizenry carbon copy of this), and indebt themselves with future liabilities up the yazoo, so long as the due date is sufficiently far in the future.

    The individuals in the society don’t do very well with this, as personal debt (or at least credit card debt shows) shows – and as one can easily find out, people with debt often can’t even remember what the hell they spent all the money on in the first place. I myself am going through the same experience with my family – isn’t that funny, I’m inheriting debt in the same way my generation likely will? I’d rather like to leave a nice plus sign for someone when I’ve shuffled off the mortal coil, though I’ve no reason to think my generation, as a whole, will do likewise – same shit, different generations, few exceptions.

    Corporations as well play funny with numbers endlessly, and this is also shown throughout the entire society, from the private sector to the government; and no, contrary to popular belief, none of this is at all new, nor even particularly bigger than it ever has been. “The Money Game” by Adam Smith, written some 30-40 years ago almost perfectly describes modern society, with only old examples, mentions of Keynes (he was a smart, insightful man, even if he did miss…shall we say, a few significant details), and slightly dated mentions of computers (they were just making their entrance to Wall Street at the time).

    So long as it ends up in the same Us vs Them bunkem, the reality will be misdiagnosed and any problems left largely unaddressed.

  9. Mr. Poge:

    Please spare us the Keynesian, Iron Cross economics lessons. In theory, if the government stayed out of the economy all together, there would be no recessions, only industry specific declines.

  10. OK. I have been reading ReasonOnline for a couple of months now, and have participated here and there on this blog. Given that, I have a question that has been bugging me almost from the start, and this seems as good a place as any to ask.

    Allow me to frame it:

    The Democrats spend a lot of money. The Republicans, as we now see, also spend lots of money. Democrats tend to favor the so-called “nanny state” that many posters love so much (heavy note of sarcasm). Republicans, while not overtly favoring same, have relatively little, sporadic objection to it. Their biggest differences (to me, at least) are in the realm of civil liberties, where the Democrats have decidedly more in common with the libertarian philosophy than the Republicans.

    Why is there so much more animosity towards Democrats than Republicans on this site? I’m not saying that posters here are card-carrying Republicans, just that they do not, on the whole, castigate Republicans to anything like the same extent as Democrats. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so.


  11. Mr Poge:

    Actually, it isn’t; if extra spending could just as well be provided for in a time of shrinking economies by saving during the highs and then using that money to improve the economy during downturns.

    During upturns the extra capital could also serve to cheapen capital at a time when it would otherwise become more expensive – during booms and expansions when just about everyone is using credit to improve their rate of growth and deal with increasing demand. Under Keynsian models, anyway, if I recall correctly.

    But of course, what does government do when suddenly it has lots of extra money during booms? Why, one need only look to California for a particulary ugly example – they spend windfall and/or seasonal money not on production, and not on savings and investment, but on “charity” and even recurringly expensive bills – in other words, their spending grows to meet the increased income.

    This, however, seems to be precisely the wrong way to handle it – it’s just that the government vastly prefers the “Spend What We Have – Borrow Or Tax When We Don’t” model of fiscal policies, and the citizenry, having the same inclinations – indeed, it seems to be the instinctual, or at least cultural, way of handling things – permits and/or generally approves.

  12. Mark A.:

    Well, that really just depends on the issue and who ends up responding first – that usually sets the tone of discussion and replies are made more towards those comments than anything else.

    Whenever the war on drugs, Ashcroft, and religion come up you can get a pretty good look at what the denizens think of Republicans.

    We are, taken as a whole, generally pretty good at being against the two established parties – at most Republicans are just slightly closer to libertarianism, and at least some wings and individuals in the Republican party (Ron Paul, for instance) are libertarian, or at least somewhat compatible.

    But, all else being equal, most of us dislike both of ’em.

  13. Mark A.

    I think you must misunderstand the Libertarian philosiphy. It is not the Repulicans that want to tell you where to live (smart growth), what to drive (small cars), what to eat (“natural food”) what not to smoke or drink (not cigs or alcohol). These are all items the Dems want to control in our life that do not meet with the Libertarian (or Republican) agenda.

    Unfortunately the only liberal leaning for most dems today is in spending other peoples money and making sure that certain special interest groups are given special treatment.

    Dan S.

  14. Thoreau and Plutarck –

    Yup. I’m against both parties (with the exception of effective individuals, such as Rudy Guiliani or Ed Rendell). And I firmly believe the federal government operates at it’s honest best when the presidency and congress are of the opposite party. Best value for spending; best candidates for SCOTUS come through.

    In more than one election, I’ve voted straight split ticket on principle.

  15. Mark,

    According to the LP news (not the same as Reason, but it’ll serve just as well), 49% of Libertarians are former Republicans and 12% are former Democrats. The rest are former independents, Greens, etc. Obviously we have broken our connection with our former affiliations, but hey sometimes old habits die hard.

    And I’m an oddball–a former Democrat.

  16. Dan S.,

    I submit that perhaps these things are most salient to you for whatever personal reasons you may have and, since most Luddites, holistic health and environmentalist idealogues are not Republicans, you perceive their relative importance in the Democratic Party as being much greater than it is. But perhaps I’m wrong….. in any event, thanks for your input.

    You too, Plutarck.

  17. Oh, and I’ve never been affiliated with either party, though partly was in a republican sort of environment (Christian school, so naturally Clinton was bad in all sorts of ways – at least the teachers that spoke about thought so).

    By the time I was old enough to register as being part of a political party I was at least an indepedent, and not long after effectively a “small L libertarian” – and for a few years prior I was a governmental minimalist anyway.

    So I sort of fall in with the general trend of being Republican first, then becoming libertarian.

  18. Thanks, thoreau. I am both a former Republican and a former Democrat, and now I’m a GDI (which still means “god-damn independent, doesn’t it?).

    So how do people feel about the so-called Democratic Leadership Council with its (supposed) fiscal conservatism/ social liberalism agenda, and why the animus towards Bill Clinton? I’m inclined to hate anybody who thinks so little of me that he would tell an obvious lie (essentially) to my face, but is that the prevailing reason here?

  19. “I think you must misunderstand the Libertarian philosiphy. It is not the Repulicans that want to tell you where to live (smart growth), what to drive (small cars), what to eat (“natural food”) what not to smoke or drink (not cigs or alcohol). These are all items the Dems want to control in our life that do not meet with the Libertarian (or Republican) agenda.”

    It is also the Dems who are pushing limits on political speach (Campaign Finance Reform), gun control, where you can drive (locking up large sections of the American West), etc. They also led the way with Terrorism Legislation (which the Repubs shot down) which would have resticted Americans without making them any safer (sure, after 9/11 the Repubs did the same), and they really aren’t much better with respect to drugs. They are fractionally better with respect to porn–that’s about it.

  20. Dan S:
    Oh I see… goody goody Republicans don’t want to tell you what you can do to yourself eh? That must be why they passed the RAVE Act (or whatever it got renamed to), to NOT tell you what to do with your own buisiness and your own body. Which is why the act allows buisinesses to be put under by the gov’t if they allow events to occur on their PRIVATE PROPERTY that might involve drug use by PRIVATE CITIZENS who were allowed to gather on said private property. But no… Republicans are the defenders of our individual rights… LOL

  21. Dan S.: You misunderstand the libertarian philosophy. It is not the Democrats that want to tell you who you can have sex with and which particular acts are approved, what recreational drugs you can use, while eroding your civil liberties in the name of proetecting the children. (Well actually dems and reps both do that) These are all items the Republicans want to control in our life that do not meet with the Libertarian agenda.

    You make the typical mistake of republicans flirting with libertarianism – you forget that reps in power are virtually indistinguishable from dems. Libertarians believe in economic and social freedom. That cannot be said for reps or dems.


  22. “why the animus towards Bill Clinton?”

    The flip side to this is: “why do Dems like Bill Clinton?” After all, he raped them good with welfare reform, NAFTA, capital gains tax cut, etc. Of course, the answer to my question is that he beat the Repubs in the polls, in elections, he pissed them off, etc., and Dems ate this up, and loved him for it even when he sold them out by signing Repub legislation.

    What’s the answer to your question? I can’t stand Clinton myself, or his wife, or the things they wanted to do but failed at (like their health care plan), and I can’t stand some of the things they did do (the Crime Bill of ’94, Brady, closing wide areas of the West, etc.). When it comes down to it, my dislike for him is very personal.

    But there is a practical aspect to disliking him, and Dems in general. The Crime Bill of ’94 (the “AW” provisions) and the shutting down of the American West both affected me. Bush’s actions post-9/11 haven’t affected me much except when I fly, and these actions were prompted by an act of terror.

    Aside from that, when someone like Clinton gets up and blames the 9/11 attacks on America’s past acts of slavery, etc., I have to hate the guy.

  23. “You misunderstand the libertarian philosophy. It is not the Democrats that want to tell you who you can have sex with and which particular acts are approved, what recreational drugs you can use, . . .”

    Actually, the Dems are every bit as bad as the Repubs on the Drug War.

    Sex? Well, in that area the Dems might have an advantage, but it is slight, and frankly regulating sex is pretty much a dead letter. The only aspect of “sex” that is still being debated is porn, really.

    “You make the typical mistake of republicans flirting with libertarianism – you forget that reps in power are virtually indistinguishable from dems.”

    This isn’t quite true. Some Repubs are pretty good. Granted, they are a minority. And most are a little bit better than the Dems.

    Here in Cali, Gov. Wilson rejected the AW ban, while Gov. Davis signed it. Wilson is a “moderate” Repub, while Davis is a “moderate” Dem. I didn’t much care for Wilson, but Davis is definitly much worse . . .

  24. To all of you who can’t tell republicans apart from libertarians I have two words for you: Ash-croft.

  25. Mark A.

    Libertarians are most akin to Repubs because of the basic respect for personal property and a relatively free market.

    Note that I am not (obviously) talking about Repubs in power but the general joe that you find on the street, so to speak.

    Generally speaking, such novel ideas as rent control, smart growth and the overall idea that more regulation is always better are rightly attributed to the Democratic party.

  26. I think where most people go wrong once they’re in power is the human tendency to justify outlandish behavior if it suits them personally.

    During our recent gas “crisis” here in Phoenix, people in the securities business who would normally sound like something out of a Rand novel suddenly started screeching the tired old “price gouging.”

    Basically speaking, everyone does it and those who don’t or wouldn’t never reach power because we’re not willing to compromise to enough of an extent to ever get elected dog catcher.

  27. >>I can’t stand Clinton myself, or his wife…

    Don, if you can’t stand yourself, then that’s the first place to start.

  28. xray,

    I pretty sure we can all tell the Repubs and Libertarians apart. Some of us can also tell the Dems & Repubs apart. Both the Dems and the Repubs have a wide range of ideas, but the Dems tend to lean collectivist.


    People tend to vote for pols who are going to “fix” something or “do” something, not “do less”. Likewise, pols have to build a resume of “doing something”. It is easy to add on new programs & spending. It is somewhat easy to cut taxes. It is hard to cut programs.

  29. Don: Yes, and the repubs tend to lean puritan.

  30. Like I said, everyone abuses their position once they’re there.

    IMO, Repubs tend to do less damage though because they are more akin to petty crooks whereas the Dems seem to have loftier goals for their abuses.

    Think of Gingrich beefing up the AirForce arsenal of C-130s or C-5s, I forget which now, but the plant to make the cargo planes is in his old distrtict and he was bringing home the pork.

    The Dems I think tend to be more oriented to meddling farther into our actual lives via their little social experiments.

    In this instance, the GOP simply not caring is good for us all.

  31. Here’s my take on it:

    Republican’s biggest fault is they ususally are the ones most stridently trying to restrict civil liberties (at least with ‘morally questionable’ behavior such as sex and drug use) but they occasionally pay lip service to deregulation and lowering taxes.

    Democrats also want to restrict many of the same behaviors as republicans, maybe are only slightly better at the defense of free speech, but more often than not they want to increase regulation and raise taxes on ‘the rich’ (i.e. anyone fortunate enough financially to pay out more to the government than they receive in aid). Since we cannot stop the government from taking money out of our paychecks, or do business or buy products that are free of the influence of regulation, but we CAN commit ‘victimless crimes’ and (usually) get away with it because none of the parties involved are interested in notifying the police, I’d say that the Democrat’s policies are far more destructive. They’re just picked easier targets that can’t run away and hide.

  32. While not exnoterating either party from abuses in general, I’m still not buying the GOP being anti-civil rights.

    There are a few well highlighted “moral” issues that they’ve stood on but for the most part, the Right is more involved in corporate welfare and lining their own pockets. Not particularly palatable but it’s not the plenary reach of the Left’s social engineering.

    The Dems end up lashing out at our basic rights on every turn through their incessant social tweaking. Most of which is seemingly under the radar.

    Think of what kind of havoc FDR wreaked that we’re not only still living with today, but that the average American thinks is his right.

  33. Ray,

    The Republicans on the street, for the most part, show the libertarian and populist leanings that define America. The mainstream GOP in power is dominated by exactly the same corporatist/big business interests and the same foreign policy establishment that dominate the Democrats. They’re just real good at using “aw, shucks” Norman Rockwell populist rhetoric to sell themselves to the public.

    The Democrats, too, have populist leanings, which are rhetorically catered to and then ignored by the paternalistic ilk of Hillary Clinton and the Sidwell Friends mafia.


    I’m a “purist” in the sense that I reject nominal “reforms” used to package strengthening the status quo (most corporate “privatization” of State functions, and a lot of “deregulation” would fit this category). And I’m definitely purist in the sense that my ultimate goal is dismantling the State altogether.

    But that doesn’t preclude working with minarchists (and Repugs and Demos in regard to specific issues) in a piecemeal scaleback of government, so long as the scaleback is at least substantive. I won’t be satisfied with any stopping point short of total anarchy, but every move in that direction is an improvement.

    So “purism” is no barrier to cooperation with “reformists.” But to compromise you first actually have to STAND FOR something. If you define your own values by taking the status quo and then marking a spot a half-inch further toward the “libertarian” end of the spectrum, you’ll never get anywhere because you don’t have any idea where you want to go.

    “Extremists” push the mainstream in one direction or another by the very fact of standing for something and adding their voices to debate.

  34. Kevin,

    But how can you reasonably give this part of your intellect to a thing that will never be?

    Don’t take this wrong but this is why I have such a difficult time taking the “purists” seriously. It’s like dealing with some Utopian from the left. It all sounds nice on paper but,. . .

  35. Retraction;

    There’s nothing wrong with a “purist” mindset. I should be more careful of how I word things.

    I was leaning towards all that sounds nice and fluffy on paper but is absolutely impossible. Like Utopia, mutalism and the various forms of anarchy touted today rely on human nature itself changing which of course is impossible.

    What is possible within a representative government is a “pure” market economy. This doesn’t require any impossibilities of nature but allows for all men to be free via a more restricted government. I know it sounds just as far fetched but it is realistic to change an institution, but hardly so for human nature itself.

  36. That must be why they passed the RAVE Act (or whatever it got renamed to),

    suggested by Sen Joe Biden (D) to my recollection.

  37. The question of why libertarians tend to be more sympathetic to republicans has always interested me too.

    I live in a college town, and listen to a lot of politically correct bull. It’s enough to make anybody sick, and most of it is demonstrably false even if spoken by self appointed experts with advanced degrees.

    That being said, I don’t think the people who post to this site pay enough attention to the other side. It seems to me that the so-called “base” of the republican party consists of several million religious fundamentalists who are mostly interested in getting their own prejudices written into law. Catering to these cretins gives us our Ashcrofts. Most of the posters to this site, I suspect, wouldn’t tolerate these people at their front door for a minute.

  38. Anon@9:13,

    Regarding the religious sorts who populate the GOP, those are my general impressions as well. Also what you said about “…a lot of politically correct bull……most of it is demonstrably false even if spoken by self appointed experts” fits my experience. Coincidentally, I too live in a college town.


    I agree with Ray regarding libertarian purism. I just don’t see how it could ever work with humans. Put three of us together, you get a government. We’re social animals, like most (all? — Plutarck I think you know this kind of stuff) other great primates (monkeys & apes but not the lemurs, etc.). It could work with a society of Kevin Carsons, I suppose. 🙂

    As far as something to believe in, just because we’re not all libertarian purists doesn’t mean we don’t have core beliefs and ideals. I happen to believe in bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. To some people (like me), libertarianism is a means to an end, not the end itself. I guess this brands me a liberal in the eyes of some……….

  39. Kevin,

    Sorry!! I didn’t mean to imply that you weren’t human! I suppose I should have stipulated that it takes a special sort of human to live in a society with no government.

    Everyone, thank you for your input.

  40. I find it interesting that neither dems or reps will admit what party they really belong to, namely the Power party. Those in office have it and, for the most part, will drive the campaign bus over their loved ones to keep it. As for hating Clinton, he is merely the grossest example of this philosophy of late.

  41. “I don’t agree with every policy endorsed by most libertarians.”

    Hell, most libertarians don’t agree with every policy endorsed by most libertarians.

  42. Ray brought up FDR, and I’d have to say that FDR did the most to restrict freedom in this country. LBJ follows closely. Of course, Wilson was the most disaterous President for the world as a whole, but in his case that was mostly unintended consequences. The three worst Presidents of the 20th Century if not all of American history: Wilson, FDR, LBJ. All Democrats.

    The worst thing about Rebublicans is that they caved in to the Democrats on the fundamental issue of concentrated, central power. Now, after the fact the Repubs look about as bad. But it was the Dems who did the damage and got us to this point. It was, however, the Repubs, who made rolling back the state a respectable idea (Barry Goldwater, RR), even though they failed to make major inroads.

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