A common refrain in American politics is that when Democrats are in power, Republicans love to claim Dems are blowing up the debt and deficit and generally being fiscally irresponsible. However, when Republicans are in power, and they drive up the debt and deficit even more than Democrats, members of the GOP ignore these topics altogether. Debt and deficit are used as political footballs and have been for decades but it’s especially done by the right wing. This is dumbfounding because Republicans really don’t have a case to make on these topics looking at recent history. Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump massively increased the deficit whereas Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama significantly lowered the federal deficit. Time will tell what President Biden’s record will be on this topic, but it’s clear that Republicans have no right to criticize him over it when they have a terrible track record themselves on it.
This right-wing hypocrisy on debt and deficit was on full display during an interview with Republican Senator James Lankford on Fox News this week. The interviewer, Neil Cavuto, pointed out that even before coronavirus, “debt also piled up in the Trump administration [and] big packages unpaid for piled up in his administration.” Lankford tried to weasel out of the conundrum by jumping to another common right-wing talking point about how the 2017 Trump tax cut legislation paid for itself (it did not and there is evidence of exactly the opposite). To his credit, Cavuto didn’t let the issue slide and told Lankford that under Trump, “the deficits piled up right? And so did the debt.” This kind of honesty and pushback is rare from Fox News but on occasion Neil Cavuto will surprise us like this. Republican politicians should never again be able to get away with making the argument that they’re the fiscally responsible ones because there’s never been any evidence to back that up.
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