Rightwing icon and firebrand radio host Rush Limbaugh once cared about reining in the federal deficit and the national debt, but not anymore. On his radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh characterized talk of national financial insolvency as unfounded worrying and a dead issue:
Caller: In 2019, there’s gonna be a $1 trillion deficit. Trump doesn’t really care about that. He’s not really a fiscal conservative. We have to acknowledge that Trump has been cruelly used.
Limbaugh: Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore. All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.
That’s not true for actual fiscal conservatives of various party identifications, even if it’s true of Limbaugh, and Trump, and most congressional Republicans. In fact, a prospective Republican challenge to Trump could be coming from former South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford, who said on CNN that he’s considering primarying his party’s leader because of the deficit.
“I think we’re walking out way toward the most predictable financial crisis in the history of our nation,” Sanford told anchor Alisyn Camerota. “If you look at the numbers in terms of debt and deficit, we’re having zero conversation on that very front. I think the Republican party, which I’ve been a part for a long time, has abandoned its conversation even on the importance of financial reality. And so, I’m just struck by if nobody says something, we’re going to wait for the next presidential election cycle on where we go next as a country on debt, spending, and the deficits that are accruing.”
Limbaugh, meanwhile, was one of Obama’s foremost critics on issues of excessive spending. In December 2009, he blamed the former Democratic president for the sky-high deficit, telling viewers that Obama was a “coward” without the “gonads” to fess up to it. Here he is in 2012 responding to a story that Obama was a responsible spender who was concerned about government debt:
They are admitting that big spending is a huge problem. In pointing to this piece, “Hey, it isn’t me, it isn’t me,” they are admitting, they are accepting the premise, if you will, the Tea Party premise, our premise, that Obama’s spending is reckless, that it’s dangerous, that it is destroying the future of your kids and grandkids. That’s why the Tea Party exists. People know that this is happening. They know they’ve never seen spending like this. They know they’ve never seen indebtedness racked up this fast. They know it instinctively. That’s why the Tea Party came into existence.
Now? Rush says stuff like this:
How many years have people tried to scare everybody about [the deficit]? How many years, how many decades have politicians tried to scare us about the deficit, the national debt, (Sen. Jim Sasser pronunciation) “the dafycit,” any number of things? Yet here we’re still here, and the great jaws of the deficit have not bitten off our heads and chewed them up and spit them out.
It is particularly noteworthy that he would abandon that position under a president who campaigned on the promise to reduce spending, only to sign exorbitantly expensive defense bills and debt ceiling hikes within the first year of his tenure. Parts of that would have troubled Rush when a Democrat was in office. So would a report like the one published by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in which it estimates that the national debt is careening toward “unprecedented levels.”
But 2019 Limbaugh says that conversation is now moot, and actually always has been moot. Some people might call that hypocrisy. Limbaugh would probably call it a smart pivot. If principles don’t pay, pandering certainly does.