Politicians who advertise themselves as “fiscal conservatives” sometimes campaign on crowd-pleasing pledges to cut taxes and simultaneously reduce budget deficits. These are difficult promises to deliver on in practice, since the budget deficit equals government spending minus tax revenue.
Aspiring fiscal conservatives may be interested in learning four innovative tricks that are commonly used by American politicians who like to promise what seems impossible. Each of these feats has been perfected over three decades or more. Indeed they first acquired their colorful names in the early years of the Ronald Reagan presidency:
During much of the last decade, U.S. fiscal policy has been procyclical, that is, destabilizing. We wasted the opportunity of the 2003-07 expansion by running large budget deficits. As a result, in 2010, Washington now feels constrained by inherited debts to withdraw fiscal stimulus at a time when unemployment is still high. Fiscal policy in the UK and other European countries has been even more destabilizing over the last decade. Governments decide to expand when the economy is strong and then contract when it is weak, thereby exacerbating the business cycle.
Floyd Norris notes in the New York Times (Feb. 9, 2008, p.B3),“George W. Bush is in line to be the first president since World II to preside over an economy in which federal government employment rose more rapidly than employment in the private sector.” It is another bit of confirmation of the truth behind a comment that “Joe S.” posted in response to my blog entry of February 6 (“Reagan and Stalin”): “What, pray tell, does the Republican Party have to do with conservatism?”