Starving the Beast - How is it a good idea?

How is the economic idea of starving the beast a good idea? The basic idea as I understand it is to create large deficits to create a large debt that will then force the government to cut spending and programs.

I don’t see how this could possibly be a good idea. If we want to cut spending, why not just cut spending? The idea of allowing debt and deficits to get so out of hand that spending will have to be cut seems dangerous. We may get to a point that we would have to cut essential programs (including defense programs) or have to greatly increase taxes. It seems analogous to being mad that your husband/wife is spending too much money, so you go from full-time to part-time to create a debt that will force your husband/wife to stop spending.

Isn’t this a form of class warfare is disguise? Basically, the aim being to end or greatly cut programs that benefit the poor and middle-class? Supporters of this idea know they could never pass large cuts to Social Secuirty and other programs, so they build up popular support for a tax cut and then just sit back and watch the debt go up. Couldn’t this backfire? Couldn’t the end result just be higher taxes and no program cuts? Has any nation ever successfully “starved the beast”?

You’ve got it exactly. They could never get the support to openly cut social programs when the govt. clearly has the money to fund them. So, instead, they intentionally create a budget crisis that gives them the emergency power to cut social programs, as a “sad necessity.” That way, it’s simply everyone’s duty to buckle down and suffer those privations like a good citizen.

Of course, the ones pushing this are rich, so they’ll be just fine. We serfs are the ones who will be starving (along with the beast).

Ah, silly boy. They will never, ever, ever cut defense spending. Never. The roads themselves could be covered with weeds and the water supplies contaminated with sewage, but they’ll still levy enough tribute from the masses to fund the war machine in the name of “national security.”

I’m not so sure on this point. Given that the Grover Norquist bunch will feel any level of taxation is oppressive and any level of federal government is overweening I could see a gradual paring back of the military. (Given a non-quasi-war environment). Delaying new hardware. Scaling down oversees commitments. Saving money by closing and consolidating the military. Transferring R&D responsibilities to the private sector, the way it used to be.

It’s important for our masters to look after us poor sheeple.

This assumes that people without vested interests in the defense industry get into positions where this could be done.

Do the Bush tax cuts have anything to do with starving the beast?

No, because the Bush administration has no compunction about growing the national debt in order to fund both their programs and their tax cuts:

NYT Oct 14/04

Rather than ‘starving the beast’, this policy is more accurately called ‘screwing our children’.

But isn’t this exactly how you starve the beast. First you have to create the massive debt, then you can start the cuts.

Unless you’re willing to repudiate the debt, that strategy will get you high taxes and fewer government services. I don’t think a smaller, more expensive government is what the beast starvers are after.

Well, I am not sure who amongst the administration explicitly subscribes to the “starve the beast” strategy, although I wouldn’t be surprised if a few do. But, I think the deal is basically that people want low taxes and high services. While it is impossible to give the people this in the long term, it is possible to give them it in the short term. So, (some of) the Republicans have discovered a winning political formula. And, it is a big game of “chicken”…Their hope is presumably to force a Democratic Administration to deal with the problem they create (by raising taxes and / or cutting budgets), which will tend to make them unpopular and then put the Republicans back into power again.

The really amusing thing is that when confronted on the somewhat misleading job loss numbers that Kerry sometimes uses, the Bushes have a hard time retorting back. That’s because Kerry was not including the number of public sector jobs created. But to refute Kerry, Bush has to admit that under his watch, government employment has skyrocketed: and that the only reason the job loss numbers aren’t truly shocking is that the government, under him and Republican governors, has expanded in terms of manpower almost as much as there’s been any private sector job growth! Bush is heralding a new age of public works, and movement conservatives just have to smile and take it.

How’s that for starving the beast?

You want some empirical data, check out the numbers for government spending vs. those for governemnt debt. An interesting coincidence emerges: it’s almost exactly the opposite of what the starving the beast strategy presupposes.

Maybe I am misunderstanding the theory, but I don’t think you can “starve the beast” (what a stupid term) in the short run. You can’t just cut taxes and services right away because there is not even support to cut the services - in fac people really want these services. So what you do is cut the taxes and maybe even raise services. This allows greater deficits and will grow the debt even faster. Then when the debt is really out of hand you have to cut services including the ones you originally wanted to cut but couldn’t because they were untouchable (Social Security).