[T]he modern American right doesn’t care about deficits, and never did. All that talk about debt was just an excuse for attacking Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps.
It's worse than that, as Krugman knows, but he had to economize toward column's end.
The worst-kept, indeed impossible-to-keep "conservative" secret is that the American right, since Reagan, has cared very much about deficits. It has cared about, caused and coddled them. The American right loves deficits, which were so easy and fun to procreate: just demagogue a litany of unfunded tax cuts, and demagogue an unfunded defense sprawl, and demagogue some unfunded wars, and hell, for good measure, even demagogue a lavish and unfunded expansion of the preexisting welfare state; and then, finally--and here's the right's really fun part--blame the entire, red-inked fiscal mess on big-spending, big-government liberals, to which a grotesquely sizable portion of the electorate will nod in sorry agreement, because of its propagandistic familiarity.
All of this is well known, of course; or at least the extent of its public comprehension is proportionate to the "informed" slice of our democracy--a slice that every small-r republican citizen works to expand.
But there's a problem with that civic formula.
The indefatigably ignorant of the right, like the overworked poor of the left, will always be with us; and yet the ignorant, very unlike the poor, possess an outsized enthusiasm for voting, which, naturally, keeps in public office a disproportionate percentage of knowing, and utterly disingenuous, ignoramuses-- who will never, never concede their disingenuity.
And there, then, is the real problem. One cannot negotiate with elected officials whose existential justification is grounded entirely in scheming misrepresentation and nihilistic disingenuity. We all, every small-r republican one of us, are desperately hanging on until 2013, when suddenly--or so we hope--a resurrecting age of reason and passable compromise and political detente will dawn. I have every confidence that President Obama will still be President Obama. But no matter what the ideological makeup of Congress, its rules and traditions will favor the re-ascendance of the schemingly nihilistic, who will by nature persist in blowing everything up.
Hence it may be less precise to say that "the modern American right doesn’t care about deficits" than to say, simply, that the modern American right doesn't care about America.