Whenever I read pieces like David Brooks’s column this morning — pieces that attribute our budget deficits to the public’s irresponsibility and lack of realism — I find myself wondering how so much recent history went down the memory hole.
Remember, we had a budget surplus in 2000. Where did it go? The two biggest policy changes responsible for the swing into deficit were the big tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the war of choice in Iraq.
And neither of these policy changes was in any sense a response to public demand. Americans weren’t clamoring for a tax cut in 2000; Bush pushed his tax cuts to please his donors and his base. And the decision to invade Iraq not only wasn’t a response to public demand, Bush and co. had to spend months selling the idea to the public.
In fact, the only budget-busting measure undertaken in recent memory that was driven by popular demand as opposed to the agenda of a small number of powerful people was Medicare Part D. And even there, the plan was needlessly expensive, not because that’s the way the public wanted it — it could easily have been simply an addition to traditional Medicare — but to please the drug lobby and the anti-government ideologues.
Correcting the record.