Matt Yglesias argues that conservatives don’t really care about the federal deficit:
One piece of pushback I got from some right-of-center folks to yesterday’s post on how conservatives don’t care about the deficit was to say that well maybe some Republican Party elected officials are bad on this, but the conservative movement is different. I think that’s entirely false. President George H.W. Bush struck a bargain with congressional Democrats that reduced spending and decreased the deficit. Some Republican Party elected officials backed him. But conservatives were apoplectic. After all, the bill raised taxes. And conservatives care more about making taxes as low as possible than they do about reducing spending or reducing the deficit.
There’s a mountain of evidence to support this view, but it would be tedious to go through it. Instead, here are the results of a New York Times poll of self-identified tea partiers from April. Remember: these are the most militant deficit obsessives out there. Their entire movement revolves around small government and deficit reduction. 91% say they’ve followed news about the deficit closely. In the middle of a massive recession with a sky-high unemployment rate, 76% say they’d rather cut the deficit than spend money to create jobs. They are the farthest right of the right wing.
But guess what? The deficit still takes a clear back seat to tax cutting: by a margin of 49% to 42% they say they prefer cutting taxes to reducing the deficit. These are the people the Republican leadership answers to these days, and they’ve made their choice.