Welcome to the land of GOP denial

How bad has the Republican bubble become? Eric Cantor claims the deficit is growing, facts notwithstanding

Topics: Eric Cantor, Federal Deficit, Debt, Debt ceiling, Government shutdown,

Welcome to the land of GOP denialEric Cantor (Credit: Reuters/Gus Ruelas)

When lawmakers return from the August recess, they’ll face a long to-do list, the most urgent items being the dual fiscal issues of raising the debt ceiling and funding the government. It’s a battle that will be reminiscent of many others fought over the past three years between President Obama and congressional Republicans, save for one enormous difference: While Republicans have used concerns over rising deficits to extract major concessions on spending, this time, for the first time in Obama’s presidency, the deficit is falling.

How will the GOP respond to this existential threat to their agenda? After all, their core fiscal argument — that government needs to be cut, no matter the social costs — has been predicated on the alleged primacy of cutting the deficit. But now, the deficit is cutting itself.

Here’s one easy way: Pretend it’s still growing. Steve Benen flagged Eric Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican, engaging in some deficit denialism on “Fox News Sunday.” “What we are trying to do is fund the government,” Cantor said. “All the while keeping our eye focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.”

He’s wrong, of course; the deficit is shrinking, “falling at the fastest rate in 60 years,” as President Obama said recently. (Politifact rated that statement “true.”)

Republicans have actually been pretty careful since the May 14 Congressional Budget Office report that first showed falling deficits. For instance, just a few days before that, on May 9, Rep. Dave Camp, the head of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, warned about the need to “reduce the growing burden of our debt and deficits.” But he has not repeated that claim since. And even Republicans acknowledge that the falling deficit will make it less likely for them to reach a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction with the president.

Whether Cantor’s comment was an aberration, a verbal misstep and proof that old habits die hard, or a sign that Republicans are about to embark on a massive reality-denying campaign, is impossible to know at the moment. The ramifications either way are big. If Cantor is alone, Republicans may finally be willing to compromise on the fiscal issues they’ll face in September. If he’s the tip of the spear of the new deficit-drop denialism, it’s going to be a very bumpy ride.

As Benen asks, “How exactly are policymakers going to have a budget debate if the House Majority Leader doesn’t even understand this simple detail?” Still, it would seem like a hard thing to let go of, after spending so many years pushing deficit hysteria and investing so much in deficit concerns as a top policy goal. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time the GOP has employed reality denial for political end.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...