Highly recommended reading:
When the Starved Beast Bites Back
Republicans are trying to create a fiscal crisis they may not survive.
Ever since George W. Bush massively cut taxes back in 2001, squandering much of the $5.6 trillion, ten-year surplus he inherited from Bill Clinton, liberals have assumed that the fiscal game was rigged. Conservatives had been explicit about their starve-the-beast strategy — the practice of creating large deficits through tax cuts in order to force future spending cuts. By playing along, the thinking went, Democrats would only further enable irresponsible behavior — a bit like negotiating with terrorists. Why kill yourself balancing the budget, as Bill Clinton did, if the next Republican is just going to slash taxes again?
The fear of conservative highjinks persists to this day, which is one reason liberals have responded coolly to President Obama's deficit-cutting commission. In fact, many suspect the right is up to something even more sinister — a "doubling down on starve-the-beast," as Paul Krugman put it recently. "Depriving the government of revenue, it turns out, wasn't enough to push politicians into dismantling the welfare state," Krugman wrote. "So now the de facto strategy is to oppose any responsible action until we are in the midst of a fiscal catastrophe."
Krugman is almost certainly onto something. I suspect, as he does, that Republicans believe precipitating a fiscal crisis will force Democrats to roll back entitlement spending (i.e., Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security), which would be both politically unpopular and the realization of the right's dearest policy fantasy. It's an altogether brilliant, if diabolical, plan. Except for one minor flaw: There's a good chance it could vaporize the GOP.