Ask anyone the difference between liberals and conservatives and they will tell you that liberals like to spend money while conservatives like to save money. After all, the root word from conservative is conserve. We are saving something right. They often use the analogy of the household and how when we are spending too much, we have to tighten our belts and do without some things we want.
In the abstract it makes perfect sense. Many of us have done this throughout the pandemic. Of course, doing so wasn’t necessarily that difficult. Vacations were often set aside and it’s not like we could go to the mall or out to eat as often as we once did. Yet, many of us just shifted our spending. Amazon suddenly did a lot better and people found extra projects for contractors around the house.
In a similar way, our national spending habits have mirrored that of the local household in some respects. We are all spending money. The question is what we choose to spend money on. Now, I don’t want to paint conservatives with the same broad brush. There are Libertarians that subscribe to a purer form of the budget process. Yet, they are pissing into the wind when it comes to electoral politics.
Admittedly, the numbers I am about to show you are somewhat cherrypicked. All numbers are when you get right down to it. Obama’s first three years saw huge deficits. They also were battling the Great Recession that started at the end of Bush’s presidency. However, we have had good economic times since 2013 or so, so let’s compare Obama to Trump
2014: 485 billion 2017: 685 billion
2015: 438 billion 2018: 779 billion
2016: 585 billion 2019: 984 billion
Again, the first three years of the Obama presidency were higher than all three years of the Trump presidency represented. Facts are facts. Yet, when you consider the economic conditions it makes sense. John Meynard Keynes always said you want to go into deficit spending when times were bad and make up for it when times were good.
The above years all represent when times were good. Economists could differ about which three year period was better. Some would say Trump’s economy was better. Others would say Obama’s was better. Reports just came out about 2020’s deficit. It will come in at 3.1 trillion. That’s 3010 billion.
Now, we must remember this when the Democrats take over the presidency and both houses in Congress. Mark my words, conservatives will suddenly become deficit hawks again. It’s as predictable as the sunrise. When the ACA or any other program is being debated, the battle cry is always that we can’t afford it. However, we have no problem spending nearly one trillion annually on national defense.
There is a popular meme going around Facebook that compares the United States and Norway. As memes go, it leaves out some salient information, but the overriding point is still true. Both populaces pay a similar percentage of their income in taxes. What they are able to spend the money on changes drastically.
I like to collect jerseys and hats. The jerseys get pricey so I don’t order them often, but I’ve managed to collect about a dozen vintage jerseys. Each time I put the money in the bank or in the family pool to pay for the jersey. As long as I do that no one has an issue. My wife will spend money on sewing and/or little projects around the house. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Congress and the president work the same way. There isn’t one party that likes to spend and another one that doesn’t. You have two parties that like to spend. They just spend it on different stuff. One party likes social programs that help the poor and middle class. The other party likes tanks, planes, and corporate bailouts.
Sure, I’ve framed that in a one-sided manner and the other side would frame it their own way. I could do the same with our collective spending habits at home. Make no mistake. We all spend money on stuff that’s important to us. The key is in recognizing that. So, when you vote, make no mistake that unless you vote Libertarian, you aren’t voting for a party that spends less. You are voting for a party that spends differently from the other party. Pick the one that lines up with the way you would want your tax dollars spent.