In his column on 22 Feb 2010 "The Bankruptcy Boys" Paul Krugman talks about the conservative strategy of "starving the beast" of big government by cutting taxes, and asks what spending programs conservatives will want to cut now that the beast is successfully starved.
I think the whole "starve the beast" and "big government is bad" rhetoric from the conservative movement was just a smokescreen. I think that conservatives don't really care how big government is or care about the deficit at all (in the words of Dick Cheney "deficits don't matter"). What conservatives really care about is preserving and enhancing the status and power of the successful as compared to the less successful. They want nothing more than to grow the stratification of society; to enhance the privileges of success. That means favoring programs that reduce taxes, opposing programs that transfer wealth to the lower end of the income distribution, opposing programs to help the lower end of the economic spectrum improve their standing, and opposing regulation that interferes with making profits at the expense of people lower down the economic scale.
Notice that this model of conservative thought is neutral as to deficits or the size of government. Just as the conservatives took up "states rights" back in the era of federally mandated desegregation and then lost interest in it once desegregation was a fait accompli, conservative opposition to big government and deficit spending only surfaces when there is a threat of new or expanded programs to help the lower end of the economic spectrum. Exhibit A: during the Bush era there was no conservative hand wringing about deficits or big government when the military and homeland security portions of the government were vastly expanded.