Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent posted an interesting entry today about “deficit hawks.” According to Sargent, the term has been unfairly appropriated by the Republican Right, even though the Right is often more interested in drying up all streams of government revenue than it is in eliminating the deficit.
This deficit-hawking started with Ronald Reagan in the late 70s, when he argued for lowering taxes, balancing the budget, and rebuilding America’s defenses. When pressed to prioritize these conflicting values, Reagan said there was no conflict. This prompted a moderate Republican opponent (Bush-41) to coin the term “voodoo economics.”
I think blogger Sargent makes a good point. If you claim to be a deficit hawk, that should mean that reducing or eliminating the deficit is so important to you that you are willing to sacrifice other values – such as your opposition to raising taxes – in order to address the deficit problem. If you aren’t willing to raise taxes to reduce the deficit, then you are more accurately described as a believer in smaller government or an adversary of big government. Paul Ryan is a believer in smaller government, not a deficit hawk. By contrast, the Gang of Six senators are deficit hawks.
Sometimes I think the anti-war liberals are still resentful of being labeled doves during the Vietnam War, as opposed to the pro-war conservatives being labeled hawks. Most alpha Americans think doves are a little squishy. NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd has tried for years to get back at the hawks by name-calling those who didn’t serve in Vietnam – she particularly enjoys calling VP Dick Cheney a chickenhawk. (Although that term is considered an epithet, the NY Times is apparently OK with its usage by columnists.) I wonder, however, if Dowd has taken this labeling to its logical conclusion – i.e., under his classification, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are chickendoves. Don’t think they’d like that appellation.