Debates 2020

Democrats Debate To Determine Who Will Spend Us Into Oblivion

The idea that "deficits don't matter" has been growing among Trump-supporting Republicans. Democrats are preparing to take full advantage.


The idea that "deficits don't matter" has been growing among Trump-supporting Republicans now that the president has agreed to a budget-busting spending deal. If you don't know what's wrong with that concept, then I hope you watched last week's Democratic debates, where such thinking was taken to new levels.

For several excruciating hours, 20 presidential candidates detailed their plans for the country. Most of them involved spending hundreds of billions of dollars on new programs. I was appalled, but those who shrug at debt spending can't take issue with the Democrats' logic.

One conservative news site tallied the proposed spending from the Democratic candidates at $210 trillion. Even if the analysis is over stated, that bout of plan-itis, as one commentator called it, will bury our nation in red ink. But how do you oppose the Green New Deal, or a plan to help buy people homes, or Medicare for all, or reparations for slavery, if you're not worried about running up the debt beyond its current eye-popping $22 trillion?

Picking on these candidates' spending (and tax and regulatory) plans, some of which will go away as the eventual nominee tacks to the center, is child's play. Today's column will attempt something more difficult: finding positive aspects from the two-night political show. In all seriousness, there were a handful of illuminating moments mixed in with the troubling programs that would, say, deny Americans the right to private healthcare.

Some observers thought the format was ridiculous because it featured so many candidates rather than a handful of front-runners. But the most mind-numbing debates usually come in the general election, when two candidates face off. That's because each party's nominee has a real shot at winning, so they stick to their script, focus on banalities and try not to say anything stupid.

These freewheeling debates feature longshot candidates, who sometimes raise critical issues because they have nothing to lose. Had only former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. senators Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) been on the stage, we never would have seen the two best moments from Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

First, some candidates want to reconsider the nation's often-unjust tough-on-crime policies. The best exchange came when U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) expressed concern about Harris' record as California attorney general: "There are too many examples to cite, but…she blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so." Gabbard also needled Harris for locking up 1,500 people for marijuana violations "and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana." Bravo.

Harris has been running as a criminal-justice reformer, but her record as a drug warrior and "lock 'em up" prosecutor stands in glaring contrast with her current claims. Biden couldn't have zinged her like that given his own record as author of a now-controversial crime bill.

Indeed, the second-most enlightening exchange on that topic came when Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) blasted Biden for that crime bill: "This is one of those instances where the house was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those laws. And you can't just now come out with a plan to put out that fire. We have got to have far more bold action on criminal justice reform."

Some of Booker's rhetoric was bizarre ("you're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor"), but the point was critical. Finally, politicians—including some on the Republican side—are looking at the unintended consequences of federal crime policy.

Second, the candidates had a surprisingly decent discussion about foreign policy on the first debate night. Sanders sounds like an old-line leftist whose views make my skin crawl, but he rightly took jabs at the idea of endless American interventionism. "We have been in Afghanistan I think 18 years, in Iraq 16 or 17 years. We have spent $5 trillion on the war on terror," he said. "And there are probably more terrorists out there now than before it began."

Warren echoed some similar points. The candidates who more closely defended America's current military approach—former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D–Ohio) have a ballpark zero chance of gaining the nomination. Moderator Jake Tapper noted that Sanders' view on the matter is remarkably similar to that of Donald Trump, who "has argued that the United States cannot continue to be the, quote, 'policeman of the world.'" Once again, both parties are re-evaluating policies that have usually gone unquestioned.

Beyond that, the debates offered thin gruel and not much entertainment beyond Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D–N.Y.) pledge to "Clorox the Oval Office." Overall, the two-night Democratic spend-a-thon left me screaming at the wall ("What about the deficits?") and searching for my own form of disinfectant, which I found in the liquor cabinet.

The column was first published in the Orange County Register.

NEXT: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: ‘I Have a Lot of Common Ground With Many Libertarian Viewpoints’

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. OT:
    Joe Biden told a group of mostly Asian and Hispanic voters Wednesday that “poor kids are just as bright” as white children.

    1. As a former child of whiteness, I can attest that is just a blatant lie.
      White children are naturally highly visible in pitch black darkness due to our glow-in-the dark complexions. So we are very ill-suited to thievery at night. Why do you think Victorian orphans were always covered in soot?

    2. Can Biden just drop out already so that other people can have a shot without him sucking up all of the oxygen?

      1. Literally. If he gets elected, he’ll probably need an oxygen machine before his first term is over!

    3. He better be careful or he’ll develop a reputation as a gaffe machine.

    4. Hes a national treasure who prefers the truth to mere facts.

    5. I for one think it’s hilarious that reason spends so much time on these Democrat Presidential candidates.

      The hope by reason is so palpable. It makes the fact that a Democrat will likely never be President again, even sweeter.

      1. That’s funny because the joy I feel at reading your comments is the hesitant hope that perhaps conservatards have finally become so tarded that among the endless supply of factually incorrect bullshit you fill their little heads with is the idea that Republicans are more popular than they are. Please, do let your guard down. Polls are fake news. Trump isn’t really very, persistently unpopular. It’s just another librul media lie.

        1. Triggered again Tony? Is it the fear that you’ll actually have to work to support your fat ass lifestyle?

          1. Triggered into happiness at the thought of conservatives finally shitting out the last generation of inbreds who get to make terrible laws that affect me. Kind of like the Hapsburgs.

            1. What “Terrible” law? Last I checked Trump and the Republicans have mostly worked at diminishing laws and/or actually enforcing the ones that got utterly ignored previously (i.e. DACA). Like the rest of the parrots though I imagine there isn’t any substance what-so-ever short of parroting other parrots.

              1. Tony lives in fantasy land.

                Otherwise he would have choked on a dick by now to end his own life.

                Trump beat Hillary and people like Tony have never recovered.

        2. Poor Tony.

          He learns nothing…ever. Not from election 2016. Not from election 2018.

          I for one cannot wait until those preliminary numbers come in from Census 2020. Tony will be crying his eyes out.

          Red states like Georgia will be picking up House seats from Blue states. It will be sweet!

          1. But will George still be a red state?

            1. Georg(ia) is a Red state and will be for a long time.

              After all the Gerrymandering, following Census 2020, in Georgia and more and more Black Americans joining the GOP to fight Democrats, even Atlanta Democrats wont have a chance.

              Georgia will be picking up more Electoral college votes from the current 16.

      2. The PFLs won’t be very happy voting for Biden because he’s not far enough to the left for their liking, but of course they will anyway.

  2. It is an amazing article you explained in a detailed way. Nice to see this here. Keep sharing the new posts like this. Would you like to know more updates about the best apps check this.

  3. Having a lot of plans is not the same things as having any good plans.

    1. In a world where people are yelling to do something, results dont matter

    2. You people and your White privilege!

      If you weren’t so White and Privileged, you would accept that the Party of slavery knows what is best for you and always has.

  4. I mean, it’s almost as if not having control of the House and needing 60 votes in the Senate to actually get anything remotely consequential done(Which you can blame the Democrats for after their meddling with the filibuster in the 70’s.) in terms of trimming the budget means that the choices are to stop doing anything and allow the lapdogs that are the MSM crucify Republicans and place zero blame on the Dems or go in the other direction and at least get some things done.

    1. Dont forget the random district judges acting like the USSC to stop any action that is taken.

      1. I am a bit shocked that the SCOTUS is not immediately smacking down these federal District judges for issuing injunctions that affect the entire USA rather than just their judicial district.

        The SCOTUS controls all lower federal courts and can hear any dispute sua sponte.

    2. I find just the headline alone facinating.

      The Democrats want to expand government 100%, doubling the size and budget and it is the fault of Trump and the Republicans because they wanted to expand the Military budget 2% more than inflation.

      This is the logical equivalent to “the Democrats want to kill you, burn your body, and sell the ashes in ice cream for the poor and it is the Republicans fault because the wanted to make you go to work.”

      Yep, still as impressed with Reason as I was last week.

      1. You perhaps need to read a little better.

        The point is not that Republicans are as spendy as Democrats. The point is that Republicans used to be a moral brake on spending, but Trump and the Trumpistas have abandoned any fiscal restraints the Republicans used to stand for. Bush II didn’t help any, but Trump is the Republican culprit here.

        1. “are as spendy as Democrats” – lol… Not even close/contest! But I would like them to do even more cuts than they’ve already done.

          1. Cuts? Maybe you didn’t notice that the budget deficits are back to 1T a year? Thank your friends the elephants!

            1. lol.. Did you just try to blame the “elephants” for missing the 1.9T/yr mark set by the “donkeys”? Yes, its sicking but I hate to burst your bubble 1T is a lot less than 1.9T.

        2. I can read just fine. The Republicans used to be a brake on spending back when both parties were all in on national defense. Now the only way they get money for national defense is by agreeing to spend more on other stuff so the Democrats will go along.

          I believe we spend our military money poorly and need to do better. But you need to give some thought as to why the Republicans changed strategy.

          I would love to see government spending reduced massively. Of course to do that will require eliminating programs and cutting entitlements. Despite getting close to retirement and having paid a shit load of SS taxes over the years, I support cutting SS, do you think there is political support for doing that? I don’t, and advocating that would result in all the republicans losing elections and the Democrats being able to do as they please. Do you imagine this would be an improvement?

  5. It is an amazing article you explained in a detailed way. Nice to see this here. Keep sharing the new posts like this.
    Welcome! I am Reena Gupta Del. I have many different hobbies and interests ranging from Speed skating to Literature. The Corrections is one of my all-time favorite novels but I have many. My hobbies include Art collecting. During winter, I usually volunteer at the local shelter. Currently, I’m reading Never Let Me Go. I kind of expected more from it. I’m looking to meet new people so hit me up and let’s chat.

  6. on Saturday I got a gorgeous Ariel Atom after earning $6292 this – four weeks past, after lot of struggels Google, Yahoo, Facebook proffessionals have been revealed the way and cope with gape for increase home income in suffcient free time.You can make $9o an hour working from home easily……. VIST THIS SITE RIGHT HERE
    >>=====>>>> ONLINE WORK

  7. Please check the record, it is not like the Republicans haven’t participated in spending us to oblivion. So in the long run does it really matter?

    1. NO. Both parties are not the same with spending.

      Some Republicans actually push their politicians to reign in spending and its in their Party Platform.

      Democrats dont demand that of their politicians.

      1. God’s Own Prohibitionists want to force them Jezebels to squeeze out draftable cannon-fodder otherwise race-suicide. Democratic People’s Republicans want to ban electrical energy and bring back Dixiecrat chattel slavery, otherwise global warming race-suicide. Both want to keep the communist manifesto income tax. The LP wants None Of The Above. Clear enough?

        1. Please post your manifesto.

  8. History suggests that the lowest government spending occurs when the President is a Democrat and the Congress is controlled by Republicans. Something to consider in 2020.

    1. I’ve seen a chart before that lays that out and I suppose I could dig out the data myself, but I believe that is true. The highest spending takes place when Democrats control the government, second highest when the Republicans control the government, a divided government produces lower spending.

      Of course, part of that might have cause and effect backward – it may be that when economic times are good people vote Republican for lower taxes and smaller government, when economic times are bad they vote Democrat for more government spending. It’s not that (D)’s spend more when they get elected, they get elected by promising to spend more, and the promise to spend more is more attractive when the economy is bad.

      1. Your alternate theory makes sense, but fails in the most recent administration. In 2017 Republicans took over the Presidency and Congress. The economy was good and it was a natural time to reduce spending. They chose not to do that and instead increased spending. Including borrowing money for a tax cut. This coincides with the shift in the Republicans. So let me restate that history shows us that the lowest government spending occurs when the President is a Democrat and the Congress ( at least one house) is controlled by Classic Republicans.

        1. You dont borrow money for tax cuts. Stop outing yourself as an immoderate liberal. Tax revenues increased last year. Spending increased even more, a large portion of it was growth in entitlements. This was known as can be seen in spending growth estimates by the cbo under Obama. 2020 was always going to spike in spending sue to guaranteed spending growth including the ACA.

    2. History suggests that the highest spending increases occur from growth in entitlement programs that were implemented under Democrats. Projections suggest this trend will continue in perpetuity.

      1. Your comment does not negate my observation because the programs you noted were implement when a single party controlled the Presidency and the Congress. Again lowest spending occurs when President is a Democrat and at least one house of Congress is controlled by Republicans.

  9. Of course, the idea that debt doesn’t matter, that this is just necessary spending for the things we want, is based on the idea that it is the government’s job to do “good things”. People have forgotten or are ignorant of or disagree with the idea that the proper role of government is to secure our rights – just stop us from hitting each other – and otherwise leave us alone. As Hillary put it, government is just the things we choose to do together. Which is wrong not just based on the fact that Hillary’s “government” would be more accurately defined as the things we force everybody to do together -the fact that government has to threaten you with force to make you participate in these “things we choose to do together” is a pretty goddamn good proof that we are not in fact “choosing” to participate – but that this is not the proper role of government. Government is not and should not be the be-all and end-all of society and community. If you want to achieve some social good, find a like-minded group of people to join and leave everybody else free to join or not as they please. Lots of people choose to shop at Walmart and eat at McDonalds and watch Game of Thrones and wear blue jeans, but the fact that they find these to be “good things” doesn’t mean that the government can mandate everybody do these things, you’re free to not shop at Walmart or eat at McDonalds or watch Game of Thrones or wear blue jeans if you don’t want to.

    1. You just said you want government to secure our rights and act as a nightwatchman, which presumably to you are “good things.”

      Ignoring every collective problem in the world other than people hitting each other is a conscience, active choice. It means no food safety standards, no pollution standards, no resource pooling for firefighting, healthcare, road building, and a thousand other things. Fine. But stop saying you have a fundamentally different view of government than everyone else who wants it to do “good things.” Everybody, you included, wants that. The question is why we should pool resources to deal with one problem but not another. That’s the question of politics.

      The nightwatchman idea seems like a good idea to people who want the world to be simpler than it is. Pollution? Just pretend it doesn’t exist and maybe it will go away.

      1. You are still an idiot, saying the same idiotic things over and over and over. Why don’t you just mosey on over to CNN where you clearly belong?

        1. Allow the point to sink in and I’ll be able to stop repeating it.

          You cannot think government is inherently evil if you also think government should do stuff.

          You cannot seriously argue that government’s evil has to do with its ability to commit violence if the only thing you want government to do is shoot and cage people.

          1. Here’s the point you need to get “sunk” in. The U.S.A. is defined by the U.S. Constitution. You have clearly and utterly no concept of what that “description” says which is actually quite sad considering the battles fought and life lost to instate it and the miracle of a country that came about from it.

            Yes; The U.S. Government (i.e. Federal) was created for specific duties. Most notably international defense. Why else do you think the states “United”? Do you seriously think they united forces so they could DICTATE what you eat, what you exhaust, what you smell, what you say, how much you make, etc.. etc… etc… That’s why the Nazi’s united under Hitler alright (the National Socialist party).

            Only Parrots allow such absurd ideas to “sink in” because they’re too stupid to acknowledge reality or process logic.

            1. The constitution made it expressly clear that it did not want a standing army for the purposes of national defense.

              So since we’re just making shit up and saying our personal policy preferences are ordained by St. Madison, we’re not really talking about anything, are we?

              But the Godwinning is certainly useful.

              1. Holy Crap Tony – What are you reading? Karl Marx manifesto!

                Exactly from the U.S. Constitution
                – To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations
                – To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water
                – To raise and support Armies
                – To provide and maintain a Navy
                – To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions
                – To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States

            2. Look at Tony loving the Constitution now.

      2. I want the government to do good things!

        I have a completely different view of government than everyone else!

        There! I said it!

        We all agree!

  10. Can’t even make it out of the FIRST SENTENCE in an article, presumably about DEMOCRAT spending before Reason Libertarian(TM) Steven Greenhut takes a “both sides” swipe at Trump and Republicans…

    1. Learn how nouns and adjectives and numbers work.

      Defend Trump’s budget. It’s his now. Defend it.

      1. The budget written by the house and passed once again with veto proof majorities is solely trumps?

        1. Well it’s not fair to put it all on the president only when the president is a Democrat.

          1. 1. No one was “puting it all on the president only when the president is a Democrat.”

            2. If the whole thing was the President’s idea from the get-go and not just a bill he signed, he holds MORE culpability for the AMOUNT than just passing someone else’s bill.

            3. Learn to have an honest conversation.

        2. And if he doesn’t like a bill he can veto it and let Congress take responsibility for it.

          1. So your solution is to give the media a few weeks of derision about a veto on a veto proof bill… for what gain?

            1. If Trump signs a bill into law, that means he endorses it. That’s all. And that should be enough.

              So defend his budget, if you want.

              1. When a President signs a bill (any President, any bill), it is the best deal he could get. Nothing more.

                1. And he literally endorses it in literally the most official way known to man. What is the fucking point of this?

                  1. Um… Lets see – he was pretty darn firm the end of last year on the budget and after about a month “the people” started freaking out about a shut-down government.

                    Some times veto isn’t just an “endorsement” but carries undesirable side effects.

            2. Poor Tony does not know about veto-proof majorities in the Senate and House.

          2. Hahaha. Democrats and their lying pals in the Propaganda wing of the Party of slavery make sure all negative consequences of spending and spending cuts are blamed on Republicans.

            Tony, you really need a new gig. Even people who were not on to Lefty lies are now. It’s partly why Trump was elected- to fight Lefty lies.

            1. Shouldn’t you be preparing your next spittle-spewing rant about how the coming recession is Obama’s fault?

            2. Poor Tony.

              He forgets when Libertarians admit that there will be a market correction. Just like there always is.

              Trump brought the USA out of the Great Recession where Obama couldn’t which is another reason that Trump is going down as the best President in at least 80 years.

              1. You really are a Russian troll aren’t you?

                Probably some babushka in a shawl.

              2. Poor Tony.

                A troll to increase web traffic at reason and then accuses commenters that he stalks of being trolls.

      2. I know how they work. Learn how to read and critique the point a person is ACTUALLY making, not the partisan political point you want them to make.

        I’m not doing anything you tell me you disingenuous authoritarian.

  11. The job of the Democrats is to provide the Republicans with cover.

    If they say they want to grow spending 50%, then the Republicans can say 49% and still claim to be “better”.

    1. Of course in this case the Democrats want to grow spending 100% and provide the Republicans cover for their 5% or whatever. Because 5% is in no way “better” than 100%.

      I would love to see government spending reduced massively. Of course to do that will require eliminating programs and cutting entitlements. Despite getting close to retirement and having paid a shit load of SS taxes over the years, I support cutting SS, do you think there is political support for doing that?

      1. Don’t know where that 5% comes from. Under W. Bush, spending went up something like 80%.

        1. Yep, remember 9-11?

  12. If deficits don’t matter, eliminate the income tax.

    1. Very nice, Rich!

    2. We could, it comprises about 50% of federal revenue. Want to go back to the way it was done before the income tax? Make Trump’s tariffs permanent and levy some more of them and it could be done.

      The US had amazing economic growth and prosperity for over a century that way.

  13. The deficit is only of concern to the party that is not in power and the small % of Americans that are Libertarian minded and visiting this web site.

  14. When Ronnie was prez nobody cared about the deficit. All the Dems wanted was to stop nuclear, coal, hydro and gas energy generation and for These States to join the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The only thing that’s changes is the Dems now want us to BECOME a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and ban those RBuckyF energy slaves so we can go back to natural slavery like God intended.

  15. We already know who will spend us into oblivion. Republicans, that’s who.

    1. Wart are you talking about Toad?

    2. This thinking must be rooted in the theory that, “The privileged group” gets there !Free! stuff from the “slave group” (of which is so insignificant that this group is never mentioned and certainly never acknowledged).

      Sure; if you take the working taxpayer entirely out of the equation then obviously the Democrats slavery plan is — what’s the word? Oh, yeah, free!

      1. Democratic “hush” funds/platform
        1 – As long as we never mention the slaves the cotton is “FREE”.
        2 – If anyone brings up the slaves…
        “we” (democrats) will project by saying, “Slaves have absolutely no right to own their OWN land/wealth”…
        Add on a topping of, “The slaves are exploiting “us” and being greedy for not excitingly giving “us” (democrats) their cotton.”

  16. We already know who will spend us into oblivion. Democrats….

    Oh wait, Democrats will never be fully in charge of government again.

    1. Go eat your beet soup, troll.

    2. Poor Tony the troll.

      Stalks Libertarians around reason in the hopes of silencing dissent against Lefties and the Party of slavery.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.