‘True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing” is what Socrates the great philosopher allegedly once said sometime before the birth of Christ, but put a few of his words in CAPS and throw in a couple exclamation points, and we have all the makings of a tweet by President Trump, right?

“Trump the transcendentalist” is one way to think about it, if you want to have a good summer.

“Self-help” or self-preservation or liberal mumbo-jumbo – call it whatever you want – it’s a free country. Thinking out of the box, though, maybe Donald Trump, his base and many of our Republican friends are not fiscal hypocrites, as all the economic indicators and evidence suggest.

Maybe they are misunderstood.

Maybe all our kvetching over the news is about us and our little minds. How else could it be that “fiscal conservatism” endures as part of the Republican brand? Shouldn’t it go the way of advertisements of the health benefits of cigarettes?

It took a while to catch up to the evidence, but eventually things started to sink in about tobacco. Will our Republican friends have a similar epiphany and realize that their economic talk doesn’t jibe with their economic walk? Who knows? Maybe they know something we don’t know, or maybe they know something they don’t know, like Socrates. It could be we crave consistency because our intellect is gummed up with hobgoblins.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. – ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ – Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1841 essay “Self-Reliance.”

Take, for instance, the idea that Republicans care about the federal debt and deficit. Remember how SCARY the deficit was when Barack Obama was president? All the time clocks spinning and fear mongering and calculators going berserk? We’re all going to die in debt! Quick – elect fiscal conservatives!

“The level of national debt is dangerous and unacceptable,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2016 – when it was roughly 1.2 trillion dollars less under Obama. Under Donald Trump, America’s national debt is the highest it’s ever been – topping a whopping $21 trillion for the first time ever.

And that’s before Trump hands out $12 billion in “welfare” to farmers, as the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal describes Trump’s bailout necessitated after his foolish trade tariffs put the brakes on agricultural exports – a tab likely picked up by taxpayers.

“American farmers won’t prosper on welfare,” these fiscal conservatives say about the program that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue concedes is only a “short-term solution.”

Meanwhile in Maine – a state with weak economic growth and bleak prospects going forward – Republican Gov. Paul LePage is denying funding Medicaid expansion because he says it’s “welfare” and only a short-term solution – in fact he’s willing to go to jail “before I put the state in red ink,” he said.

And House Republicans in Maine along with the governor – our fiscal hawks – are now holding out for “tax conformity,” i.e., matching Maine’s tax code to the Internal Revenue Service code as reformed – because they love Trump’s new tax law so much.

That was the one that was passed last year by Republicans that reduced corporate taxes from 35 percent to 20 percent and increased depreciation and other goodies. You know, the one that will add trillions to the deficit at a time when corporate profits are rising at warp speed?

Ralph Waldo Emerson might say this is not hypocrisy or contradiction at all but simply Maine Republicans and the governor getting back to nature.

Being “fiscally conservative” and self-reliant now means something different than it what it meant before Donald Trump and Paul LePage were elected and Republicans took over the United States government.

Now ballooning federal debts and deficits coupled with declining tax revenue from corporations is not a crisis to worry about but instead a good excuse to make cuts to social programs.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:


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