Krugman on Dean III

February 15, 2005

Krugman continues:

It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a “Clintonesque Republicrat,” someone who, as governor, tried “to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required.”

I’ve written for some time now about the curious phenomenon of liberals having become Latter Day deficit hawks. Prior to the Reagan years

they never found a federal dollar they wouldn’t spend. They became fair weather deficit hawks because they had nothing else with which to attack President Reagan. So they had to gripe about his deficit spending, which they did so much to cause, on the spending side.

When Clinton first appeared on the scene he didn’t even promise to balance the budget. At best he was going to reduce it in the early years, but it would return with a vengeance, by his own projections, in the out years. Then, in office, Clinton was given the gift of balanced budgets by Newt’s Army of America Contractors. Though he fought kicking and screaming — resisting Welfare Reform, promoting National Health Care, and a multi-billion pork payoff to big-city mayors in his “economic stimulus” package, he and his worshipers still take credit for the balance budgets that occurred on his watch.

But there is an even more important point hidden in Krugman’s assertion. For the last year when defending Dean against the charge of liberalism, Exhibit A in their case is that Dean balanced the budget as Governor of Vermont.

What I think is most fascinating and often overlooked about this line of argument is that it is a thunderous admission that balancing budgets is not a liberal concept. Of course anyone with even a moderate political IQ understands that liberals are allergic to balanced budgets. The aggressive expenditure of federal dollars is their closest simulation of sanctification. Balanced budgets don’t matter. (Just look at them denying there’s a Social Security Crisis.) That’s why they have no credibility when they complain about the president’s budget shortfalls. That is not to say that President Bush should be immune from criticism for his past budgets. But that criticism comes from the right, not the left and Krugman has just admitted it, whether he knows it or not.