When Trump's tax rebate was about to be enacted, I called it the "biggest fiscal scam in history" and I made a prediction: that the deficits would skyrocket, and when they did, the Republicans would again pretend to be worried about the debt and would demand cuts in Medicare (health for the elderly), Medicaid (health for people without resources) and Social Security .
Of course, the deficit is shooting up. And this week Mitch McConnell, president of the majority of the Senate, after declaring that the increase in the red numbers is "very disturbing", he asked, you guessed it, cuts in "Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid". It also hinted that Republicans could repeal the Affordable Care Act – depriving tens of millions of Americans of medical care – if they do well in the midterm elections.
Any political analyst who would not have seen it coming I should look for another profession. After all, "starving the beast" – cutting taxes on the rich, and then using the resulting deficit as an excuse to tear down the safety cushion – has been a GOP strategy for decades. And anyone who asks why Republicans believed the claims that the tax cut would pay for itself is naive. They said what they said, they never believed that the reduction would not affect the deficit; they forced it because it was what rich donors wanted, and because their posturing as hawks of the deficit has always been fraudulent. It really is not that they believed the economic nonsense; It would be more accurate to say that economic nonsense bought them.
That being said, I've even been surprised by two things about the Republican jackpot budget. One is the moment they have chosen: I would have expected McConnell to bite his tongue until after the partial elections. The other is the lies: I knew that Donald Trump and his allies would not tell the truth, but I did not expect the lies to be so blatant.
What do they lie about? To begin with, about the causes of that much higher deficit, which according to them is due to an increase in spending, not to the loss of income. Mick Mulvaney, budget director of Trump, tried to slip that the rise in the deficit is due to aid for those affected by the hurricanes.
The weak justification for these claims is that, in dollars, federal revenues have increased slightly from the previous year, while spending has increased by approximately 3%. But that is an absurd argument, and everyone knows it. Both income and expenses normally rise every year due to inflation, population growth and other factors. The revenues during the second term of Barack Obama grew more than 7% per year. The causes of the increase in the deficit are measured by how much we have deviated from that normal growth, and the answer is that everything is due to the reduction of taxes.
However, the falsehood about the causes of the deficit is a more or less usual tactic of the Republicans. The novelty is the ambiguity that permeates the republican posture with respect to the budget. What do I mean? Well, think about the fact that while McConnell blames deficits for "recognized rights" (ie, Medicare and Social Security) and declares (falsely) that Medicare specifically is "unsustainable", the Action Committee Ryan's policy has accused Democrats of wanting to cut Medicare. The cynicism is astonishing.
Of course, it's no more cynical than the behavior of Republicans like Dean Heller, Josh Hawley and even Ted Cruz, who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which protects Americans with pre-existing conditions, or who have supported a demand to withdraw that protection included in said law, and that they presently claiming they want to … protect people with pre-existing conditions.
What I want to say is that we are in a campaign in which the position that one of the sides claims to have on all the main issues is the opposite of their true position. The Republicans have concluded that they can not win a debate on these issues, but instead of changing their policies, they scatter clouds of ink.
Why do you think the strategy can work for them? Obviously, the main response is the contempt they feel for their supporters, many of whom obtain information from Fox and other propaganda media that follow the line of the party strictly. And even by appealing to supporters who report on other sources, Republicans think they can neutralize the deep unpopularity of their current policies by distorting their positions, and winning by betting on racism and fear.
But let's be clear: the cynicism of the Republicans also supposes a lot of contempt for the conventional media. Traditionally, the media have been very unwilling to denounce the lies; The need to go overboard with replicas and counterreversals has played in favor of the Republicans, taking into account the fact that the modern Republican Party lies much more than the Democrats. Even the most blatant falsehood tends to be published with headlines that say "Democrats say" that it is false, instead of claiming that something is false.
In any case, at this point the Republicans are proclaiming that war is peace, that freedom is slavery, that ignorance is force and that the party that keeps trying to kill Medicare is in fact the biggest defender of the program. Can such an insincere campaign really win? We will discover it in less than two weeks.
Paul Krugman is Nobel Prize in Economics © The New York Times Company, 2018 Translation of News Clips