Design by Erin Shi. Buy this photo.

Anyone remotely interested in American politics has heard of “the deficit” at least once. The deficit is how much the United States government’s annual expenses minus its revenue. Conservatives treat it as an ever-present threat, with every bit of spending bringing the nation closer to their imagined annihilation. But, in reality, many economists seem to agree that the deficit isn’t the biggest issue facing America, with the United States having other financial liabilities that could be an even bigger threat. So, if the deficit doesn’t show any serious risk of harming the United States, why do Republicans seem to care about it so much, and why do they only seem to talk about it when they’re not the ones in power? Well, that’s because Republicans don’t actually care about the deficit; it’s just another talking point they use to stop the government from getting anything done that doesn’t help them or the corporations that fill their pockets.

During the years of the Obama administration, Republicans couldn’t stop talking about the deficit and used it as an excuse to try to stop anything that came through Congress that wasn’t put up by them. Things like school funding and welfare programs were shot down by Republicans. But, oddly enough, as soon as the Trump administration began in 2016, it was like every Republican in the United States forgot that the deficit ever existed. From 2016 to 2020 government spending shot up, and even though Republicans held the presidency, House and Senate, it seemed like they never even brought up the deficit as a concern when they were raising the military budget, increasing police and border patrol funding or paying for expensive weekend getaways for the president.

The Trump administration was not the only time in history that Republicans have completely stopped caring about the deficit either. During both the George W. Bush and Reagan administrations, the national budget increased by over half a trillion dollars. While some would argue that the Bush administration was forced to spend that much due to the War in Afghanistan, documents show that the U.S. had no real strategy in Afghanistan and were essentially dumping money that the American taxpayer would never get back. Republicans have a long history of hypocrisy when it comes to the deficit and national budget, and with the issue making somewhat of a resurgence during the first year of the Biden administration, it doesn’t seem as though they have any intentions of stopping.

While Republicans’ hypocrisy is obvious, how exactly has it harmed the United States? The first and most obvious example of this is the lack of any major health care reform happening in recent years, largely due to debt hawks in Congress shooting it down whenever it comes up. While Democrats themselves aren’t too great on this issue, the lack of health care reform in this country has caused prices to skyrocket, causing many people to be unable to afford health care, and many who can pay are still at mercy of the predatory insurance industry — all of this because Republicans don’t see it as a reasonable sector to spend money on. Republicans’ debt-hawking has also been disastrous for the United States’ infrastructure, with roads and bridges nationwide crumbling, the public school system favoring only those lucky enough to be born in certain zip codes and electric infrastructure barely holding on by a string in some parts of the country as many saw in Texas this last winter. Even though there is currently an infrastructure plan being pushed that could help solve a lot of this, Republicans and the few “Democrats” who agree with them are doing their best to stop it. But the one part of government spending that has never fallen under the ire of Republicans’ obsession with the deficit is the military. Whether it be sending us into a 20-year war based on a lie, setting up unnecessary military bases worldwide or getting involved in struggles that don’t concern us, Republicans love spending money on the military. 

One could look at this and think that it’s just because Republicans just have an interest in keeping the United States safe, and while some surely do, it’s almost certain that some Republicans’ votes when it comes to increases in the military budget are affected by the money they get from lobbyists who represent military contractors or by their investments in those same contractors. While Democrats also take money from the same lobbyists and invest in the same military contractors, it is Republicans’ particular hypocrisy on this issue that shows a maliciousness that does not belong in American politics.

While no politicians are strangers to hypocrisy, Republicans’ duplicity on the issue of national spending and the deficit has been especially damaging to the United States. It has caused infrastructure to crumble, health care to be largely inaccessible and military funding to skyrocket. While this has been disastrous for the working class, large corporations have only gained from it.

Keoni Jones is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at