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Republicans' fiscal flip-flop is breathtakingly ill-timed

Catherine Rampell on

Republicans' plan to Make Deficits Great Again is not merely hypocritical. It's also terrible policy. Or at least terribly, breathtakingly ill-timed.

In 2009, a few weeks after Barack Obama took office, a Republican political movement -- one supposedly grounded in fiscal conservatism -- was born.

Sure, the country was teetering on the edge of another Great Depression, a circumstance that would normally call for aggressive fiscal stimulus. Tea party Republicans, however, demanded belt-tightening. They wanted a government that stopped spending beyond its means. That meant, above all, reducing federal debt.

Maybe even passing a balanced-budget amendment!

Curiously, in the past few months, all those fiscal hawks have flown the coop.

The federal government is on track to borrow $1 trillion this year, roughly double what it borrowed last year.

The huge increase is partly driven by the ginormous, plutocratic tax cut Congress passed in December, as well as less-noticed, smaller rounds of tax cuts that have passed since then. Now comes a planned two-year budget deal that includes hikes in both defense and nondefense spending.

President Trump is also pushing for even more deficit-financed spending, including a border wall and an infrastructure package.

With no Democrat in the White House, Republicans have stopped worrying and learned to love deficits. But there are two reasons their fiscal flip-flop is very badly timed.

The first has to do with the business cycle.

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