I spent seven long years waiting for David Brooks to really concern himself with the massive spending, massive borrowing and huge expansion of government that typified the first decade of the 21st century. Well, now the Democrats are about to become dominant, he has woken up. When the Republicans are in power, he is a Big Government Conservative. When the Democrats look imminent, it all gets a little more complicated.
Brooks ended his oped with:
What we’re going to see, in short, is the Gingrich revolution in reverse and on steroids. There will be a big increase in spending and deficits.
What Gingrich revolution? It is true that the Federal deficit was reduced in the 1900’s (while we had a unified surplus – total Federal debt remained roughly constant even in real terms during Clinton’s second term) but that was NOT due to some Gingrich revolution. The two drivers towards fiscal sanity were the 1993 tax increased – opposed by every Republican in Congress – and the reduction in defense spending. I don’t see Gingrich’s disciplines calling for a smaller military. But let’s examine Brooks’ big fears:
First, there will be the bailouts ... Second, there will be more stimulus packages ... Third, we’re in for a Keynesian renaissance. The Fed has little room to stimulate the economy, so Democrats will use government outlays to boost consumption. Nouriel Roubini of New York University argues that the economy will need a $300 billion fiscal stimulus ... Fourth, there will be tax cuts.
Deferring taxation – the proper term for these tax cuts sine spending reductions – is a Republican idea and not evidence of a bigger government. The bailout as Brooks calls it represents a series of asset trades and not more government consumption. The new calls for stimulus represent mainly an acceleration of public investment. Most economists understand that aggregate demand management usually means re-timing spending decisions and not necessarily increasing the role of the government permanently.
Then again – David Brooks is not an economist. Why the New York Times waste its space on the silliness of David Brooks is beyond me.