Government spending & the deficit are a distraction from much more important issues

Last night, Congress finally did something about massive government spending (link), the single most important issue ever to face the U.S. and the only thing keeping us from continued hope, growth, opportunity and prosperity.

Er, maybe not. And, in fact, others used to agree. For instance, consider this table showing the average number of monthly mentions of the listed terms at HotAir [1]. In 2007 there were an average of just 8 mentions per month of the word "deficit" at HotAir. By 2011, there were an average of 222 mentions per month:

  "deficit" "spending" "budget"
2011 (4 months) 222 497 1242
2010 121 281 680
2009 96 278 588
2008 30 198 579
2007 8 133 511
2006 (8 months) 10 63 318

For another data point, consider this: just over three years ago, the Comptroller of the U.S. (David Walker) resigned in protest over spending and commenced a "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour" warning about deficits. Walker's events weren't exactly greeted by hordes of teapartiers, in fact few people showed up at all. The year before he quit, Walker appeared on CBS News' Sixty Minutes (link):

''I would argue,'' he told Steve Kroft, ''that the most serious threat to the United States is not someone hiding in a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan but our own fiscal irresponsibility.''

Mr. Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office, has embarked on a mission to take his message to the people because, he says, politicians don't want to hear about it, much less act.

But that mission may be quixotic. If Mr. Walker's alarms are valid, the near total lack of a response to the report is quite disturbing. There was very little in the way of reaction from blogs or in most of the media this week.

If he'd done that this year, he'd have his own 4-hour daily show on Fox News by now.

To be clear, spending and deficits are important. However, they aren't by any stretch of the imagination the only issues the U.S. has and they aren't the most important issues (more on that below).

The word "interest" above is a huge understatement. At present, the GOP - led around by the small but very loud and annoying tea parties types - acts like a drugged-up, green eyeshaded, OCD-suffering, rabies-inflicted crazy accountant. Concerns about spending, budgets, and the deficit have passed beyond the normal realm and are now not just an unhealthy obsession for much of the GOP base, but also "Boob Bait for Bubba" for their leaders. Those leaders are using this issue only partly because it's important, but also because it helps distract from other, more important issues. And, those are the same leaders who for the most part ignored George W Bush's massive spending, such as somewhere between $1 and $3 trillion on the Iraq war. The people who now make up the tea parties were around then, but they were oddly silent and now they refuse to account for their whereabouts during the eight Bush years.

And, even if we could get spending under control, we'd still be faced with much greater and much more fundamental issues, many of which are social in nature. To list just a few:

* Education issues, including general low knowledge of civics, foreign countries, and so on.

* Pollution, something that the GOP would make worse with their very corporate-friendly calls to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency.

* Reliance on foreign energy, something that the teaparty types do occasionally mention. Then, they launch into their "Real Men Don't Push Green Energy" trained behaviors.

* Global warming, a topic greeted by hysteria and sloppy thinking on all sides. Those in effect paid off by corporations retail "Real Men Think Global Warming is a Myth" to the teaparty types which buy it up. At the same time, those who warn about the issue engage in various forms of propaganda and many of them seem to have ulterior motives just like their opponents. The rational approach - realizing it might be happening and taking reasonable steps to mitigate it - is favored by only a few.

* Government corruption of various kinds.

* Media bias and disinformation in general.

* De-industrialization, outsourcing, and globalism-related issues.

* And, the issue of all issues facing the U.S., illegal immigration and massive immigration in general. That plays a role in some of the issues above, it increases spending, and it reduces the political power of the GOP and of the tea party types. And, decades from now all of the low-skilled immigrants who've been allowed to come here will be retiring and others like them will be trying to support our generous social welfare programs. Even Obama admits that's a problem. Yet, the tea party types have largely ignored the immigration issue since they started.

Bottom line: don't trust the libertarians and tea party types because their OCD-level obsession with fiscal issues will just allow other, far more important issues to get even worse.

[1] The numbers in the chart were obtained through this google search (and by changing the year and the search term): inurl:2011 deficit
The number of results was then divided by the number of months that HotAir had coverage for that year. Bear in mind that such a search is hardly an exact science for various reasons, but if there were a huge concern about deficits in 2007 one would certainly expect more than 8 results per month on average.