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A Typology of Red-Ink Elephants

Categorizing politicians on Social Security "reform" is all the rage in the blogosphere at present, as witnessed by Josh Marshall's tireless campaign to smoke out Members of Congress and classify them as either in or out of the Democratic "Faint-Hearted Faction" or the Republican "Conscience Caucus." And then there is my colleague The Moose, and his useful effort to distinguish GOPers on Social Security as "free-lunchers," "green-eyeshades," and so forth. I'd like to spread the practice to another critical issue, the budget deficit, where Republicans hew to a general line of spilling red ink like drunken sailors in a printshop, but offer a number of distinct rationales for their fiscal vice. There are at least four Fiscal Factions in the Washington GOP. There are those who pretend the deficit problem doesn't really exist, or is rapidly getting better, and pursue a dazzling array of deceptions to advance their dubious case. There are those who admit the deficits, but say they don't matter. There are those who buy into Grover Norquist's "Starve the Beast" theory, which argues that deficits are a Good Thing because they will ultimately (and preferably long after current GOP politicians have retired) force a major shrinkage of the federal government. (Elsewhere I have described the allure of this theory as offering Republicans "the political equivalent of a bottomless crack pipe.") And there are those who grumble about fiscal profligacy and perpetually threaten to do something about it, even as they support an administration and a congressional leadership that are daily making matters worse. Let's call them the Liars, the Deniers, the Celebrators, and the Procrastinators. Nominations are open for the membership and leadership of these factions, and for examples of their distinctive rationalizations.
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