Bartlett on Fiscal Conservatism…

Bruce Bartlett reminding us a bit of that ancient conservative value of fiscal responsibility.

This reversal of the historical conservative position has had enormous implications for our national finances. By effectively taking taxes off the table, conservatives unwittingly opened the flood gates of spending.

The reason why conservatives supported a balanced budget in the first place wasn’t so much about the economics as a belief that it was a constraint on spending and the growth of government. That deficits were inflationary, raised interest rates and led to crowding out in financial markets, which reduced economic growth, was really a secondary consideration.

A key reason why a balanced budget requirement constrained spending is that deficits led to higher taxes. Since people don’t like paying taxes, they put a brake on spending that couldn’t be financed out of current revenues. In the event that there was some new program that was widely deemed to be desirable, such as Social Security or Medicare, it was commonly understood that new taxes dedicated just to these programs were an essential requirement for enactment.

Programs that couldn’t be financed weren’t seriously considered until the Bush 43 administration.

It’s a fun read just for the history of it, agreeing with the opinion or not.

(Found via The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan.)