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10 Reasons Why Conservatives' Fiscal Ideas Are Dangerous

It would almost be funny if their ideas about spending didn't lead us into the deepest financial catastrophe in nearly a century.

Yes, it's true. The conservatives -- that's right, the very same folks who just dragged us along on an eight-year drunken binge during which they borrowed-and-spent us into the deepest financial catastrophe in nearly a century -- are now standing there, faces full of moral rectitude, fingers pointing and shaking in our faces, righteously lecturing the rest of us on the topic of "fiscal responsibility."

I didn't think it was possible. I mean, they were mean enough drunk -- but hung over, in the clear light of morning, it turns out they're even worse.

I know. The choice is hard. Laugh? Cry? Scream? All three at once? It would almost be funny, if it weren't such clear evidence of a complete break with objective reality -- and their ideas of what that "fiscal responsibility" means weren't so dangerous to the future of the country.

The next episode in this surreal moral drama is set to take place next Monday, when President Obama will convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" at the White House to discuss the right's bright new idea for getting us out of this hole: let's just dismantle Social Security and Medicare.

As usual, this proposal is encrusted with a thick layer of diversions, misconceptions, factual errors and out-and-out lies. Here are some of the most pungent ones, along with the facts you need to fire back.

1. Conservatives are "fiscally responsible." Progressives just want to spend, spend, spend.

The comeback to the first assertion is easy: Just point and laugh. Any party that thought giving cost-plus, no-bid contracts to Halliburton was fiscally responsible (and let's not even get started on handing Hank Paulson $700 billion, no questions asked) deserves to be made fun of for using words that are simply beyond its limited comprehension.

And a quick look back at actual history makes them into even bigger fools. For decades now, liberal presidents have been far and away more restrained in their spending, and more likely to turn in balanced budgets. Part of this is that they've got a good grasp of Keynes, and know that the best way out of bad financial times is to make some up-front investments in the American people -- investments which have almost always, in the end, returned far more than we put in.

Conservatives believe wholeheartedly in investment and wealth-building when individuals, families, and corporations do it. But their faith in the power of money well-spent -- and the value of accumulated capital -- completely vanishes when it comes to government spending. They think it's morally wrong for government to ever invest or hold capital -- despite the long trail of successes that have enriched us all and transformed the face of the nation.

Under the conservative definition of "fiscal responsibility, " we'd have never set up the GI Bill and the FHA, which between them launched the post-war middle class (and made possible the consumer culture that generated so much private profit for so many). We wouldn't have 150 years of investment in public education, which for most of the 20th century gave American business access to the smartest workers in the world; or the interstate highway system, which broadened trade and tourism; or research investment via NASA and DARPA, the defense research agency that gave us the microchip and the Internet and made a whole new world of commerce possible. There wouldn't be the consumer protection infrastructure that allowed us to accept new products with easy confidence; or building and food inspectors who guarantee that you're not taking your life in your hands when you flip on a light or sit down to dinner.