When Deficits Don't Matter

In the last two months, conservatives and centrists have stumbled over themselves to sound tough on the deficit. Sen. Lindsay Graham threatened to vote against raising the debt ceiling unless Social Security saw cuts, and likewise, Sen. Joe Lieberman has insisted on cuts to entitlements, since “the sooner we deal with the problem, the less harsh the cuts will be.” Like his counterparts in the House, Mitch McConnell has been extremely vocal on the deficit; a few days ago, he issued a blanket threat to vote against a debt-ceiling increase unless "we do something important related to spending and debt."

With their concern over deficits, you would think that this would make them cautious about military interventions, which are notoriously expensive. Of course, you would be wrong. Deficits don't actually matter when it comes to dropping bombs on poor brown people. Here is Graham:

"I want to take back criticism I gave to them yesterday and say, ‘you are doing the right thing,'" said Graham. "My money is on the American Air Force, the American Navy, and our allies to contain the Libyans, and anybody on our side that says we can't contain the Libyan air threat -- I want them fired."

And McConnell:

With no evidence emerging that Col. Gadhafi is about to fall, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky urged the U.S. to consider various moves that would mark a sharp escalation in American involvement. [...]

Mr. McConnell of Kentucky, speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," said that "arming the insurgents" could be an option, citing as a possible model U.S. efforts against the Soviets during the Cold War.

Mind you, this was before the United Nations authorized a no-fly zone over Libya. By next Monday, I expect effusive support from House Republicans -- despite the billion-dollar price tag -- who are willing to give up deficit reduction if it means they can invade a country.

It should be said: I don't begrudge conservatives and others who want to get their war on. I think it's a terrible idea, but reasonable people can disagree. I just wish we could at least acknowledge the obvious truth: conservatives don't care about deficits but will use them to cut spending on poor people. When it comes to things they like -- wars, for instance -- they're willing to pay any price.

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