And in a month in which Republicans have sought to discredit Democratic challengers as advocates of big spending and high taxes, 52 percent of respondents said that Democrats would make the right decisions on how to spend taxpayers' money, while 29 percent said Republicans would.
The emphasis here is on deficit spending. Like the various Labo[u]r parties around the world, it's a fair characterization that liberal, social democratic, populist leaning parties spend a little more than right-leaning parties do. But deficit spending? Not so much. Go back to the 1930s and you see Labour and Democratic parties spending more to get out of the Depression, but given the circumstances, perhaps not deficit spending enough. It took the deficit financed World War II to get most of the western countries out of the depression and back to full employment. War, of course, is a perennial historical justification for deficits. If you win. If you're borrowing good money to fund a war gone wrong, that becomes unpopular.
Like Vietnam. This, I would guess, was the beginning of the perception that Democrats were weak on national security, and couldn't control the budget. The two are related -- I'm not sure that that gets enough attention. Then you have the oil crises of the 1970s, and the Australasian and British Labour parties, the Canadian Liberals, and the Democrats were all in power during at least one of the oil shocks of the 1970s. That was when government deficits became a problem for western countries, and the Labour/Liberal/Democratic parties were all, unfortunately, for them left standing when the
music oil stopped. Would conservative parties have done any better at adjusting government spending in the midst of the oil crisis? I don't know.
Going back to the Great Depression suggests an answer. In Britain and Australia where the Labour parties held the finance ministry at the start of the Depression "responsible" balanced budgeting was the order of the day, and it saddled both parties with responsibility for the Depression that the Republicans, and the New Zealand Reform (conservative) party also experienced. The somewhat unfair perception that left voters with, was that the conservative governments were responsible for most of the misery of the Depression. Somewhat unfair, because it reinforced stereotypes that were already out there that conservative governments were less likely to spend on the poor.
Conservative governments would probably also have run up large deficits during the oil shocks (and did, later in the 1970s in Australia and New Zealand). But conservatives running budget deficits doesn't reinforce stereotypes already out there, while it does for liberals.Posted by eroberts at October 10, 2006 1:11 PM | TrackBack