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Where Have All the "Deficit Hawks" Gone?

I noticed that earlier this year we were overwhelmed by a wave of anti-deficit grandstanding throughout the Democratic Party while the Catfood Commission was sending up trial balloons about cutting Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age (which is just a sleight-of-hand way of cutting benefits) or cutting the health care benefits for military service personnel.

Interestingly, since we have started the public debate about whether or not to extend Bush’s massive, deficit-ballooning tax cuts to millionaires, those same deficit hawks have been very quiet. That, or they have been very noisy about pushing to greatly increase the deficit by demanding Bush’s tax cut for millionaires be allowed to continue. Senators such as Ben Nelson (D-NE), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and 31 House Democrats have squawked about letting those tax cuts for the rich expire as Bush’s law had originally intended. Almost all of those 31 Representatives are self-proclaimed “fiscal conservatives” who pretend to be worried about the deficit even as they fight to greatly increase it.

When it comes to cutting benefits for poor and middle-class seniors, or cutting the pay of our military personnel while forcing our veterans to pay more of their own health care costs — much of which likely resulted from illness due to their service in two long wars — what we hear from Washington elites is the great need for “shared sacrifice” to bring down the deficit. Yet, when debating the idea of allowing taxes on millionaires (and here it might be good to remember that two-thirds of the members of Congress are themselves millionaires) to return to what they were under Bill Clinton, it is all “damn the deficit we can’t let the wealthy suffer during this economic downturn!”

It is just a reminder that in Washington talk about “reducing the deficit” is almost always nothing more than code for screwing over regular Americans and almost always completely divorced from any actual concern about the size of the federal debt. It is long past time that the media calls out these “deficit hawks” for the hypocrites they are and explain what their fake deficit grandstanding is really about.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker is political writer and blogger for FireDogLake. He is an expert on health care policy and the politics of health care reform.

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