Trump’s tax cuts were widely praised by his supporters, and widely panned by the Left. No surprise in either case. The tax cuts were also panned by another, less obvious group: conservative deficit hawks. Many in this crowd purport to be the “true” Republicans, and thus many of them embrace NeverTrumpism to some degree. The deficit hawks complained that the tax cuts would exacerbate the already-dangerous deficit and national debt, and are therefore an irresponsible mortgaging of the future.

In this, they ignore two realities regarding tax revenue. First – tax cuts are stimulative in nature, and historically, rate cuts have produced revenue increases that (partially or wholly and then some) make up for the rate cuts. This history appears to be repeating itself. Second – the phenomenon dubbed Hauser’s Law supports the premise that as far as revenue goes, tax rates don’t matter: History supports the conclusion that Americans tolerate a certain level of taxation (19.5% of GDP is the long-term steady-state average), and that what’s done to the tax code will result in behavioral changes that will maintain receipts at that level. Thus, tax policy should focus on stimulating economic growth, since a faster-growing GDP will put more tax revenue dollars into the coffers.

But, lets set those realities aside, and consider some of the hawks’ dissonant beliefs and attitudes. Deficit hawks will complain about spending as much as they complain about “unpaid-for” tax cuts, but as is true for most people, bristle at the suggestion that certain categories of spending be addressed. One of the great failings of the TEA Party movement (back when TEA purportedly stood for “taxed enough already”) was its stone-wall resistance to addressing the obvious and glaring problem with entitlements, Social Security in particular. Another, among conservatives in general, is the bull-headed opposition to reining in defense spending, even if solely in the “militarism” and global footprint categories (America has spent $5.9 trillion on foreign wars since 9/11, and has an estimated 800 military bases in 80 countries).

While it’s disappointing to hear those who declare fealty to principle devolve to the typical “cut spending, but leave my sacred cows untouched” hypocrisy, it’s not surprising. Far too few people, including self-professed conservatives, walk the walk, and instead insist that that the government spending they like go untouched.

Libertarians expect progressives to want to spend more of other people’s money. It’s part of their philosophy, and it’s why there’s little common ground between libertarians and progressives on matters economic. In contrast, conservatives argue that libertarians should align with them, because of a common belief in less government and reduced spending. Dare to suggest, however, that Social Security was sold on a lie, that it needs fixing, and the screams of “Never! It’s my money and I’m entitled to it!!” drown out any point you might make, no matter how ironclad and rational. Dare to suggest that, perhaps, we should have less of a global footprint, and that wealthy European nations with less national debt, lower budget deficits, or actual budget surpluses manage their own defenses instead of relying on Pax Americana, and the response is equally resistant. Ditto for incarceration, the drug war, tax code favoritism for conservative priorities, militarization of police, et al.

Everyone has priorities, and everyone has opinions on the proper role of government. People can have legitimate disagreements, but railing about the deficit while walling off major chunks of government spending from cuts is intellectually dishonest, dissonant, and possibly even hypocritical.

None of which matters much in politics, but that doesn’t temper the disappointment.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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