The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a large annual gathering of the American Right, promised to wage war at this year's event: "America vs. Socialism" was the theme. It's a strategically savvy move when considering that democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) is leading the delegate count for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. But notably absent from the CPAC agenda was anything pertaining to the debt, deficit, or current levels of absurd government spending—an odd choice for a conference that sought to position itself as a banner carrier for responsible fiscal policy.
There was plenty of time allotted for main stage performances by incendiary characters like Diamond and Silk, Charlie Kirk, and Candace Owens, who do more to caricature the Right than provide constructive policy ideas. Also present were panels on immigration restriction, impeachment, social media, and a live reading of FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers, a new play about the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page FBI scandal. And there were a few meetings on the ills of socialism. But if you wanted to hear people talk about our immediate slide into deficit hell, you were at the wrong conference.
Perhaps that's because President Donald Trump is part of the problem, despite campaigning in 2016 on a promise to eliminate the $19 trillion debt within 8 years.
Trump has "fully embraced the idea that deficits don't matter," writes Steven Greenhut for Reason, with fantastical budget proposals that fail to right America's fiscal ship. His 2021 budget, for instance, requests $4.8 trillion in spending—a 21 percent increase from when Trump took office.
Republicans have often criticized Democrats for their expensive policies and rallied behind spending cuts, but now that Trump is in the White House, many conservatives seem to have abandoned the idea entirely. Rush Limbaugh, the inflammatory right-wing radio host and recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, regularly railed against former President Barack Obama for his reckless approach to fiscal issues. In July, he appeared to have changed his position.
"How many years have people tried to scare everybody about [the deficit]?" he said on his show. "Yet here we're still here, and the great jaws of the deficit have not bitten off our heads and chewed them up and spit them out."
"America vs. Socialism," it turns out, was real-life clickbait.