Beto O'Rourke

Beto O’Rourke, 2012: ‘We Cannot Continue to Spend Ourselves into Ruin’

The 2020 presidential candidate ran on spending cuts, troop withdrawls, and means-testing Social Security while primarying an incumbent Democrat 7 years ago.

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||| XU JING Xinhua News Agency/Newscom
XU JING Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

When CNN outrage-archeologist Andrew Kaczynski took a deep dive last week into the early-career policy statements of future Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), he found a fringe politician in his 30s advocating "the public ownership of the major means of production," as well as a spokesman of a serious presidential campaign nearly five decades later being unapologetic about such textbook socialism. So what did Kaczynski (and today's co-author, Paul LeBlanc) find after mining the early-career policy musings of a then-obscure thirtysomething El Paso City Councilman named Beto O'Rourke?

A deficit hawk advocating "tough choices" on spending, defense, and entitlement reform, including means-testing Social Security and raising the retirement age for future recipients.

"There are certainly places in the federal budget where we have to look at reorganizing, where we have to look at cutting," O'Rourke said at a March 2012 primary debate against eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes, who he would go on to topple two months later in the Democratic primary. "And we really don't have a choice," he said. "You have a $16 trillion debt. We're running $1 trillion annual deficits and we cannot continue to spend ourselves into ruin. We need to elect people who are gonna go up there and make some tough choices."

The national debt seven years later is now north of $22 trillion, with annual deficits projected to re-reach the $1 trillion threshold any month now, despite an economic expansion and stock market bull run that are both nearing record lengths. When the next recession and bear market hit, tax revenues will decrease just as demand for government services will spike, blowing an even larger hole in the severely imbalanced budget. Oh, and the Social Security Trust Fund, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is on pace to run out of money just 12 years from now, after which recipients face a mandatory 25 percent benefit cut.

While largely forgotten now by a political class chasing the shiny objects of democratic socialism and nationalist populism, such cruel numbers were on the lips of many a politician and journalist in 2011-2012, including then-President Barack Obama and his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, who warned in his 2012 Democratic National Convention speech that, "We've got to deal with this big long-term debt problem or it will deal with us."

Unlike his Democratic opponent, O'Rourke in his primary fight endorsed the framework for dealing with long-term spending and entitlements put forward by the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by former senators Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. The Simpson-Bowles collapse nevertheless produced the Budget Control Act of 2011, which created a new long-term Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, whose similar failure triggered the sequestration spending caps of 2013. All in the name of an acknowledgment, common for two decades but largely absent since then, that when Baby Boomers retire the rest of us are hosed.

"The people who paid into Social Security and who are earning their checks back from investment in Social Security, that needs to be protected," O'Rourke said in a November 2011 debate. "That's inviolable. But going forward for future generations, for my kids' generation, five, three, and one year old. Right now, we need to look at things like means testing….We need to look at perhaps a…later age at which my kids are going to retire. That's a tough decision. It's not easy to say, it's going to be politicized by my opponent. But those are the tough things that you're going to want me to weigh in on when I'm in Washington, D.C."

Unlike Sanders spokesman Josh Orton, who cast Bernie's Brezhnev-era fondness for means-of-production socialism as a noble and ongoing defense of "the interests of working people across the country," O'Rourke spokesman Chris Evans gave a more backpedaly response to CNN:

On Social Security, Beto was acknowledging that it's very possible Congress would look at that debate around raising the age in the future. He does not say he supports it or recommends it. Beto was interested in looking at possible ideas for ensuring the solvency of Social Security for future generations….He ultimately found a solution that he endorsed and co-sponsored called the Social Security 2100 Act, which extends the solvency of the program without raising the retirement age. While Beto has not taken any action to raise the retirement age, he has opposed efforts to raise the retirement age and voted against measures to privatize Social Security.

As Tim Miller points out in a shrewd piece for The Bulwark, the Beto honeymoon of five months ago is a distant or even scrubbed memory for the pro-Bernie and identity-politics portions of the left, who during this fascinatingly competitive primary have been pouring acid into every crack of O'Rourke's armor. (The candidate's emotive Gen X mannerisms have given plenty of opportunity for such withering mockery.)

In response, even in the few short days of his announced campaign, O'Rourke has backtracked at least somewhat on several things, from the way he talks about his wife to his previously stated preference for capitalism over socialism. "I consider myself a capitalist," he said again Friday. But: "Having said that, it is clearly an imperfect, unfair, unjust and racist capitalist economy."

So far in his young campaign, O'Rourke has deliberately steered concrete policy questions into more generalized statements of problems and emphases of goals, which is the kind of thing that allows one to praise the Green New Deal without quite tattooing it on your tricep. (There have been some indications that Beto is getting testy about the charge that he's all sizzle, no steak.) Being all things to all voters is damnably hard when you bring heterodox views into a competitive primary.

Bonus video: I discussed O'Rourke's vague selling proposition yet specific policy beliefs on MSNBC last week:

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92 responses to “Beto O’Rourke, 2012: ‘We Cannot Continue to Spend Ourselves into Ruin’

  1. Beto O’Rourke, 2012: ‘We Cannot Continue to Spend Ourselves into Ruin’

    That about wraps it up for Beto in the Democratic primary.

    1. Yep. “Spend ourselves in to ruin” is the first plank in their platform.

      1. Well, spend YOUR life to ruin, but yeah.

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      3. Every year politicians show where they really stand by voting on the budget and spending bills. What you don’t see from Beto, Democrats, or RINOs, is actual proposals to cut spending. Just jawboning about it, and advocating studies and commissions, but don’t mention the budget or votes on appropriations bills.

        The only people serious about the budget, are the ones who have proposals cutting it, with specifics regarding where. You don’t find Democrats proposing cuts, except for the military, the border patrol, or conservative charities promoting things like abstinence and adoption over abortion.

    2. Libertarian moment.

  2. Oh, and the Social Security Trust Fund, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is on pace to run out of money just 12 years from now, after which recipients face a mandatory 25 percent benefit cut.

    Two things here:

    One, there is no “trust fund”, it’s merely all thrown into the general fund, so when it “runs out” we continue to pay (and even increase) benefits, we just go deeper in debt.

    And B, 12 (11.67) years from now we’re all dead from environmental catastrophe if 172% of us don’t start doing 111% of our driving and commuting on sustainable e-scooters.

    1. Pretty sure those e scooters are illegal in any city with a Democrat majority government.

    2. and coincidentally, 12 years from now is when I’ll be 67. so no point in not claiming at 62 if the monthly payout will be the same.

  3. That was under Old Monetary Theory. He’s hep, he’s with it, he’s got New Monetary Theory under his belt now.

    1. It’s great being woke.

    2. maybe he can start carrying a copy of Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson in his pocket ot impress the chicks instead of a paperback novel he never reads

  4. The candidate’s emotive Gen X mannerisms have given plenty of opportunity for such withering mockery.)

    That’s the part of Beto I like the most. From his creepy poetry to his communing with native spirit guides and visionquests, that’s the best part! I too yearn for a president whose chief ambition is to have everyone working in a coffee shop and being in a band.

  5. Wow, he actually said some things that aren’t worthless. But is he still saying them today?

    1. If you RTFA, he’s gently walking them all back.

      1. That was a rhetorical question.

        1. It’s aight. Beto is entirely rhetorical.

          1. You’re on fire today!

  6. Because if the progressive hive mind can turn on Beto, then conservatives who appreciate the life-affirming parts of identity politics, want to champion diverse voices, and hope to find common ground with sensible liberals against the nationalist, white-grievance right are unlikely to be treated any better.

    This is what passes for “shrewd” in Welch’s world.

  7. I have an irrational hatred of Beto. I don’t know what it is but he pisses me off more than any candidate I can remember.

    1. It’s kind of unfair. Beto is an entirely centrist Democrat and coming from El Paso he’ll undoubtedly entertain some entirely libertarian principles. For instance, it’s tough to be from El Paso be and be a drooling anti-gun nut.

      I feel bad for Beto because he’s a lot like Barack Obama in a way where his persona is largely manufactured in the press.

      1. Obama I didn’t like but I could see the appeal. Beto seems to be some kind of weird Frankenstein algorithm of worst part of every generic white democratic candidate in recent history. Media fawning, blank canvas, empty meaningless platitudes, incredibly wealthy wife. Combine that with the skateboarding and more than likely indescribably pretentious music tastes I have heavy disdain.

        1. Hey,

          He’s more than a bird, he’s more than a plane
          He’s more than some pretty face beside a train
          And it’s not easy to be Beto!

        2. algorithm of worst part of every generic white democratic candidate in recent history.
          Media fawning – Obama… well all of them really
          blank canvas – Obama
          empty meaningless platitudes – Dukakis, Edwards, Obama
          incredibly wealthy wife – Kerry

          1. But he’s tall so he’s that going for him

          2. Dukakis had negative charisma though

        3. Someone called him “Manic Pixie Dream Candidate,” and that’s a pretty good description.

          1. Oooooh, that’s funny!

          2. He’s Bobby Newport.

        4. but he’s dreamy, so the liberal Hollywood Dems will fund him and the soccer moms will vote for him. the best haircut usually wins.

      2. Beto has an F-rating from the NRA and doesn’t think semi-automatic rifles should be sold in this country. That record is as a congressman from El Paso and a “moderate” senate candidate running in Texas.

        Kirsten Gillibrand used to have an “A”-rating from the NRA as an upstate NY congresswoman. (“F” as senator).

        They only “evolve” in one direction.

        1. Yeap, I’ll never vote for a Democrat. Cold day in hell or not. Not too many Republicans I like either, but I’m not automatically disqualifying them.

          1. I voted for Hillary but now I’m glad she lost. Trump may not be that friendly towards gun rights but he’s not openly hostile.

            The anti-gun rhetoric following the Pulse nightclub shooting opened my eyes to the left’s animosity to the Second Amendment, and their contempt for my rights. Their increasing hostility to gun rights since the election has pushed me away from any support for Democrats. They’ve turned me into a single-issue voter, but so be it.

            I’ll admit that I should have known better, after all, it was Hillary’s hubby and a Democrat controlled Congress that pass the “Assault Weapon Ban.”

        2. They’re allowed to be pro-gun to get elected, so long as they don’t let it get in the way of voting anti-gun if their votes are needed. Even John Dingle, NRA board member, voted for the ’94 AWB. That’s how much you can count on pro-gun rhetoric from a Democrat.

    2. It is probably the utter vapidness of the man.

      1. He’s one of those people who’s completely worthless, but somehow worth more than you.

      2. Matt Welch has a Beto boner for the guy.

        It’s almost like when Welch get a political hard on, it lasts the entire election season.

    3. “Idle Hands|3.19.19 @ 6:15PM|#
      I have an irrational hatred of Beto. I don’t know what it is but he pisses me off more than any candidate I can remember.”

      Imma go out on a limb, and say it’s the spaz hands…

      1. That and the fact that he’s a total douch?

        1. Yea, but there’s less wordplay to that

  8. The Galway Gringo.

    1. +1

  9. Beto, are you the libertarian moment?

    Will you help end the war on our individual liberty?

    Will yo cut the size of the federal government by 96%, abolish the IRS, and end the war on drugs and our right to keep and bear arms?

    Are you that man, or are you just a pretty boy on the cover of the fancy New York magazine read by MILFs?

    1. I’d settle for a candidate who would cut the federal government by 9.6% at this point.

  10. Bobby Newport 2019: “We must start spending ourselves into prosperity instead. Have a Bobby Bar! My Dad made ’em!”

  11. earning their checks back from investment in Social Security

    Just like investors in a pyramid scheme earn back their investment.

  12. “I consider myself a capitalist. Having said that, it is clearly an imperfect, unfair, unjust and racist capitalist economy.”

    “Capitalism is unjust and racist and I consider myself to be a capitalist.”

  13. He also strongly endorsed the Green New Deal so apparently he’s fine with spending ourselves into ruin as long as it doesn’t accomplish anything.

  14. So was he covering his radical lefty impulses back then or is he covering his radical centrist impulses now? I frankly don’t see the point of this article.

    1. He’s actually a great example of how a left-leaning Gen-Xer would have evolved politically. In the 90s, he was part of a pretty rebellious hacker group and drank like a fish, adopted some centrist positions to maintain friendships in the 2000s, and finally became the neutered progressive white progressive in the 2010s.

      If anything, he confirms what I’ve long perceived about the general flakiness of Gen-Xers, and how they’ll follow whatever the political fashion is of the moment.

      1. Slick Willie for the most part governed by which way the wind blew as well.

        1. better a weathervane than a commie true believer

        2. Yeah, but that was more of a calculated decision than anything he did organically. If his party hadn’t gotten its ass kicked in the ’94 mid-terms,

          Gen-Xers are the type that will convince themselves that their current political position is what they always believed, and its mostly out of sheer self-preservation. Other of a brief window during the 90s, they’ve never had the numbers to influence popular culture on the same scale that the Boomers and Milennials have done. And because they’re really the last generation to have formed strong social bonds and their self-image outside of the internet, along with the fact that most are now in their prime earning years, they’re a lot more susceptible to social media pressures in order to keep their professional and personal networks intact.

          1. I should have said, if the Dems hadn’t gotten their asses kicked in the ’94 mid-terms, Clinton would have governed far more from the left than he did.

      2. From a Gen Xer: fuck off

        1. I’m also a Gen-Xer. Fuck off yourself.

      3. I think Gen Xers are really the only thing keeping the USA from tipping Socialist right now.

        Greatest Gen – Dead or dying Conservatives with love for Social Security and Medicare
        Boomers – Generation Lefty
        Gen X – Centrist to Conservative with plenty of Helicopter Mom Feminists
        Millennials – Generation stupid and Lefty
        Gen Z – Surprisingly Centrist to Conservative

        1. The Boomers are a lot more of a mix than you may want to believe. It’s mainly the radical hippies that got all of the attention.

  15. SS is already means tested at 80 or 85% confiscation (tax) from the wealthy. A better idea is to scrap the program and go into 401ks for all, including gov’t unions.

    The Sad REALITY..Everyone knows Mr. OR is digging his own political grave with this. “A later age at which his Kids are going to retire, WOW. JUST. WOW. His kids will never have to work a day in their lives if they don’t want to and inherit a fortune. How does he think the population does not know that his wife is a trustafarian. I can just see the other Dems popping a gasket on this. The “my kids retiring” comment is idiocy.

  16. This demonstrates perfectly how far left the Democrats have moved in the last 7 years.

    1. The left had a shit fit when W tried to fix it when he took office. Even before 9/11 when the market tanked. He just wanted to give people the option to put their money elsewhere if they wanted to. But we can’t have choice when it comes to our retirement, schools, or healthcare. Bernie doesn’t even want is to have choice for consumer goods.

    2. Every one of the Democrats running for President is flashing Socialist credentials.

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    1. Shoulda bought a Nomad

    2. “”…and cope with gape…”
      WTF?

      1. “cope with gape…increase home income”

        What don’t you understand?

        1. “Covfefe.”

    3. I doubt it — a base model Atom starts around 50K

  18. “it is clearly an imperfect, unfair, unjust and racist capitalist economy”

    “that hopefully will soon be transformed into an imperfect, unfair, unjust and racist *socialist* economy.”

    1. Look, if everyone can’t be 1%ers, then no one can!

      1. Except for our socialist overlords, of course.

  19. ‘We Cannot Continue to Spend Ourselves into Ruin’

    ‘On the contrary, we must continue to spend ourselves into the glorious future the people deserve!’

  20. Is Bill Weld jealous of all the attention Matt’s been paying Beto lately?

    Poor Bill Weld.

    1. On the contrary, Bewildered is endorsing Beto for President. They’re good friends from way back.

    2. “Unserious-yet-self-righteous Carbuncle Bill Weld”

      There, I fixed it for you.

  21. “recipients face a mandatory 25 percent benefit cut”

    That’s not going to happen to anyone already receiving benefits at that time. That’s basically an automatic throw the bums out hair trigger and every politician knows it. They’ll tell the MIC to pound sand before they give up their own office.

  22. But I will not balance our budget on the backs of the elderly, the poor, the young, the brave men and women in our military, the working class, the unemployed, or The Churldrun!!!

    /every candidate in my lifetime

    1. Don’t forget, “I will give you this and more. I will make them pay for it.”

  23. Looks like Bobby; drives like Ted.

  24. Betojuice.
    Betojuice.
    Betojuice.

    Is he gone?

    1. +1

  25. what’s another 6 trillion dollars between friends?

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  27. “The people who paid into Social Security and who are earning their checks back from investment in Social Security, that needs to be protected,” O’Rourke said in a November 2011 debate.

    It’s almost comical how the people who have the least understanding of how the SSI system is designed and functions are from the party that created the very system.

  28. Wait, are people actually treating this guy’s candidacy seriously? He’s a 50 year old Irish dude whob refers to himself as “Beto” and skateboards to show how hip he is.

    1. “He’s a 50 year old Irish dude…”

      But he identifies as Latino.

  29. “”You have a $16 trillion debt. We’re running $1 trillion annual deficits and we cannot continue to spend ourselves into ruin. We need to elect people who are gonna go up there and make some tough choices.””

    Forgive me if I hear that as “We need to spend more money on freebies and increases taxes (magically only on the “rich”, who need to “pay their fair share”), but we know that the spending will always grow faster than the revenues.”

    Virtually no one in D.C. is ever considering ACTUALLY cutting spending on anything, hell they cry when the rate of increase is slowed as if spending were actually cut.

    OTOH, if they had the balls to just hold spending at 0% increase–no actual cuts, just no increases–revenues would likely catch up in 3-5 years and eliminate the annual deficit. Just say “$4T per year is all we’re gonna spend for the next 5 years, we’ll have to learn to live with four trillion dollars of federal government”.

  30. “The people who paid into Social Security and who are earning their checks back from investment in Social Security, that needs to be protected,” O’Rourke said

    That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

    That he’s propagating this myth speaks volumes.

  31. “Beto” Bobby: a fairly conventional leftist pretending to be a moderate, practical pragmatist with the strategy of speaking totally in platitudes and saying almost nothing concrete. Yep, it’s the Obama first election playbook all over again.

    Which of course is why Welchie Boy loves him so much the same way he worshipped Obama. Lying con artists are almost like a brotherhood of sorts, and Welch knows one when he sees one better than just about anyone.

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