Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Victims of Deficit Reduction

Nicholas Kristoff offered a provocative column; Republicans, Zealots and Our Security, in Sunday’s New Your Times. Kristoff opens with an intriguing notion. If foreign fanatics were to take our country to the brink of financial crisis we would be up in arms. He makes a compelling case that ideology by the more conservative wing of the GOP should be no different.

We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.

In other words, Republican zeal to lower debts could result in increased interest expenses and higher debts. Their mania to save taxpayers could cost taxpayers. That suggests not governance so much as fanaticism.

We should be alarmed and outraged.

How did we get to this point? When did politics become more important than responsible governing?

Kristoff focuses on the damage this mania for budget cuts does to education. The same could be said for conservation and environmental programs. Try substituting conservation or the environment for education, Kristoff’s words ring just as true.

More broadly, a default would leave America a global laughingstock. Our “soft power,” our promotion of democracy around the world, and our influence would all take a hit. The spectacle of paralysis in the world’s largest economy is already bewildering to many countries. If there is awe for our military prowess and delight in our movies and music, there is scorn for our political/economic management.

While one danger to national security comes from the risk of default, another comes from overzealous budget cuts — especially in education, at the local, state and national levels. When we cut to the education bone, we’re not preserving our future but undermining it.

This is going to be a long hot summer…


  1. Do I have this right, spending is ok, budgeting is not? Also, not quite sure how the “…zeal to lower debts could lead to increased… debts”? Maybe the answer lies it that tricky word “could”. Anyway, can’t Mr. Kristoff’s proposition be equally applied to the “fanaticism” and “zeal” to spend? In the end, the result would be the same, wouldn’t it?

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