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Taking a leaf out of the McCaskill “fiscally responsible” playbook, Robin Carnahan yesterday revealed that she was no slouch when it comes to pandering to the received wisdom about deficits:

From where I stand here in Missouri, I’m disappointed in the President’s budget recommendation. Budgets are about setting priorities and it’s time Washington started making fiscal discipline and tackling the long-term budget deficit higher priorities.

Carnahan even resorted to McCaskill’s favorite cliche, comparing deficit spending to household finance:

Missouri families have to balance their checkbooks and our government should be no different

Problem is the comparison is not only trite, but wrong. As former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich puts it:

… If John Maynard Keynes taught us anything, it’s that a federal budget is not at all like a family budget. In fact, it’s precisely because families have to pull in their belts that the federal government has to let its belt out. When consumers and businesses aren’t buying much of anything, the government has to fill the gap. That’s the only way to get jobs and get the economy moving again. Once the economy is percolating, the government can pull back. By then, tax revenues will soar, and the long-term deficit will shrink.

Don’t believe me?  Think about Herbert Hoover and the great depression. Then think about the prosperous, post-war years when Keynesian theory was given its head.

The Keynesian formula has worked well in the past, and can work well again – even the itty, bitty stimulus program (relatively speaking) that was put into place last spring has had positive effects. But it will only work again if we stop allowing our media and politicians to indulge in irresponsible rhetoric about “irresponsible” spending. At all costs, we should certainly hold our Democratic representatives accountable for more than leadership by slogan – al least when the slogan is demonstrably, disastrously wrong.