I've been saying it for 20 years: Tax cuts are only a loan against deferred maintenance. And while Newt Gingrich got the ball rolling, it was Grover Norquist who really institutionalized them into a protection racket, where Republican congressmen are literally afraid to vote for tax increases -- or against tax cuts.
Finally, people are starting to say it out loud. On Morning Joe, for instance, where this morning Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle pointed out in an extended conversation that decades of Republican budget cutting led us directly to this pandemic disaster. Here's part of it:
Scarborough led with the famous quote from Grover Norquist.
"He said 'I don't want to abolish government, I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub," he said.
"Well, that's exactly what's happened with NIH. That's exactly what's happened with the pandemic task force. That's exactly what's happened, again, with that 12% of the federal government, the domestic discretionary spending part, that small part of that pie that republicans have only had the political will to cut. Of course, expanding the defense budget at record rates, passing record tax cuts, being fiscally reckless, and then gutting the small part of the federal budget that actually would be saving lives right now, Mike."
"Well, Grover, who grew up about 15 miles from where I'm sitting here right now this morning, should be pleased with his efforts because they have been quite successful. And I can know that -- you know that they're quite successful when you talk to emergency room nurses or doctors or people in hospitals who don't have enough protection equipment, who don't have the kind of gloves, the kind of masks that they've needed now for months because government has been so inefficient in delivering these things," Barnicle said.
"And I might remind Grover to go around to a hospital and talk to these people at the appropriate distance, of course, and then ask yourself, is this really the United States of America? Are you telling me in the United States of America, in the year 2020, that we cannot provide nurses and doctors with personal protection equipment needed to combat this virus without putting their lives on the line every day, which they do? But this is the United States of America 2020, thanks to the efforts of people like Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich who began this whole thing, in my estimation, in the mid 1980s, and this is where we are today, Joe."
"I'll tell you, Mika, I am a small government conservative. I've been fighting for small government and balanced budgets my entire life, I'm still a small government conservative," Scarborough said.
"But you've got to keep the part of the budget that actually helps the American people. And, again, it's something I've been warning about for a decade now. It's something that other conservatives have been -- small government conservatives have been warning about for a decade now. You can't jack up defense spending to record levels. You can't jack up tax cuts that end up not helping the economy in the long run.
"You can't do all that while gutting the NIH, while gutting, again, a pandemic task force, abolishing them. You can't deconstruct the government the way Steve Bannon said he wanted to deconstruct the government, without having this sort of impact. I don't want a big huge massive runaway government, even though that's what Donald Trump has given us. I want an efficient government. I want a smart government. I want a government that pays attention to that 12% and grows out the parts, makes the investments that actually protects Americans and protects us moving forward as well.
"That's not been done. And we're paying the price."
Here's a little stroll down memory lane. I've spelled it out for journalists. Maybe a few of them will highlight the root causes of this mess, because it didn't start with Trump: