Starve the Beast is the theory, trumpeted by small-government types, that posits budget-busting tax cuts will reign in spending. Because hey nobody likes a free lunch…
So has it worked?
Well, we all know where the major tax cuts took place. Republicans have greatly increased deficits through tax cuts, but were they able to bring down spending?
In fact, from a recent historical perspective, Democrats have responded to large deficits by shrinking the debt and Republicans have responded by bringing it back up again. Tax cuts have not shrunk the size of government spending or brought budget deficits into neutrality.
Look the US government is already starved. Entitlements are part of the law. We will have to use future revenues to pay future costs of Medicare and Social Security. Together, this is $90 trillion, just to pay what the government has already promised. Without unpromising SS and Medicare costs, there will be no choice but to spend what we promised. And since Republicans have made out cuts to Medicare to be a great terror in the current health care debate, it seems like the past 30 years of Republican reticence to put-up on the spending cuts part of Starve the Beast is still true.
So the next time a proponent of Starve the Beast brings it up, you are allowed to punch him in the face. It’ll improve debate.
Bruce Bartlett, one of the principle policy advocates of supply-side economics and Starve-the-Beast philosophy has rather famously changed his mind about the applicability of both these conservative darlings. You can read more about his take on Starve the Beast here and buy his book, The New American Economy.