Whenever I hear that phrase, I cringe, because it’s a favorite phrase of upper middle class, white liberals who have fallen for both a false idea of fiscal conservatism and a shallow conception of social liberalism.
The social liberalism is generally a vague mixture of support of abortion rights, environmental protection, and LGBTQ rights. The fiscal conservatism is usually some vague platitudes about living within our means, not wanting to pay taxes, and perhaps some Pete Peterson-esque BS about cutting Social Security or Medicare and/or the ‘fixing’ the federal debt.
Here is an example my objections, which show why this stance is almost always BS.
For example, on LGBTQ issues, the support is frequently around marriage equality (though it is less vital since the Supreme Court made it the law of land). All well and good, of course, but an issue that costs far more precious blood and treasure is the issue of the still high rates of homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, and suicide among LGBTQ youth. They don’t brunch and their issues cannot be solved with a court ruling. In fact, what they need is to loosen that belt and invest in social services and programs that cost, you know, money.
The fiscal conservatism is almost always a false economy. Cutting social services and depriving America of the talents and future contributions of those young people is a long term cost. In the medium term, the higher rates of STIs and the connection between drug addiction and crime have considerable costs in blood and treasure.
The thing is, we, as a country, always wind up paying for these things. Just as when conservatives pissed and moaned and cried about healthcare reform. We can’t afford it, they said. It will be too expensive, they said. Mindbogglingly ignorant. Can’t afford it? We are already paying for it. Literally. Money is fungible. America pays X amount per year for healthcare. We already pay for healthcare, as a nation. We are just doing it ineffectively. In fact, we even pay more than that X would suggest, because we are also paying in reduced wages.
That goes for most of this stuff. In fact, it’s very much like your mother told you when you were a kid: take care of it now, or else it will be worse later. Take your medicine and pay upfront for social services for those kids, or else pay later and pay more. Set up a rational healthcare system that controls costs or else don’t and pay more later, one way or another.
Fiscal conservatism is actually about not wanting to pay now. Not wanting to pay now, also benefiting from the fact that, in America, poor people will pay a higher relative share of those future costs than you.
Other phrases I hate include, ‘I vote the person, not the party’ and ‘I’m just telling it like it is.’
In the first phrase, nine times out of ten, that’s just to provide an independent veneer, because the person who said that invariably votes for the candidate of a single party (usually Republican, because most Democrats aren’t so ashamed of their affiliation) in 99% of elections.
In the second case, the phrase almost always follows a statement which was some combination of pointlessly hurtful and/or racist.