John Edwards on Fiscal Policy

Just as this Rubin-esque Bear decides that John Edwards should be our next President, Steve Benen discovers Edwards is closer to Krugman than to Rubin as to fiscal policy. Steve credits Ezra Klein for capturing what Edwards said in Iowa:

Q: No one seems to have talked about the deficit, and I see that as a twofold problem. Not only are we going into debt, but we’re mortgaging our future to the Chinese – last time I noticed, they weren’t really allies of ours, weren’t really our friends. I wonder what would your approach to the piling up of the deficit be?
Edwards: Well, I have to first off say what everybody here knows…when George Bush came into office we had surpluses as far as the eye could see, and now we have deficits as far as they eye can see. I think the honest answer to this question is that there’s a tension between our desire to eliminate the deficit and create a stronger economic foundation and eliminate some of the debt our children will inherit, there’s a tension between that deficit and our need to invest and make America stronger for the 21st century.
I think that, if we’re honest, you cannot it, it’s just common sense in the math, have universal health care, and invest in energy, and make a serious effort to eliminate poverty, to strengthen the middle class, and do some of the work that I think America needs to be leading on around the world, and at the same time, eliminate the deficit. Those things are incompatible. And anybody who claims – politicians who say ‘I’m going to give you a big tax cut, and give you health care, put more money into education, and oh by the way, we’re going to balance the budget in the process,’ it’s just make-believe, it isn’t the truth. So I think there’s gonna be hard judgments that have to be made – my commitment is to have universal health care, to do things that have to be done about this energy situation and global warming, because I think they’re enormous threats, not only to the people of America but to the future of the world, for America to lead on some of these big moral issues that face the world, and I think America has to do something about poverty, I just do. Those are higher priorities to me than the elimination of the deficit. I don’t want to make the deficit worse and I would like to reduce the deficit, but in the short-term, if we don’t take a step to deal with these other issues, it in my judgment, undermines the ability of America to remain strong in the 21st century.

Add to this an email I got from David Altig suggesting Edwards might be a trade protectionist too – and it does get a little dicey. But could we have deficit reduction and a commitment to our future? I harken back to something I quipped just after hearing one of President Clinton’s early comments on fiscal policy: “Read My Lips, Much Higher Taxes”. Hey – one can be for fiscal restraint and government investment too if one isn’t saddled with the obsession of telling people (dishonestly) that “we’re giving you your money back”. But if Edwards picks Lou Dobbs as his advisor on international economics, I’m out of here.