The GOP Is The Party Of The Free Lunch — For The Rich
One of the mistaken and common stereotypes about American politics is that the Democrats are allegedly the party of the free lunch or free stuff. It is a common misconception that is prevalent among a significant portion of the voters and the so-called “liberal mainstream media.” This idea has gained traction over the years because the Republican Party lies very skillfully and knows how to push out a deceptive message.
The reality is that the Republicans are the party of the free lunch or no sacrifice. On the other hand, it is the Democrats who have paid for their agenda during the modern era.
The status of the GOP as the free lunch party began when it adopted supply side economics in the late 1970s. When Reagan ran for president against Jimmy Carter in 1980, he promised that he could cut taxes, increase military spending and balance the budget — all at the same time. Reagan and his supporters predicted that his tax cuts would pay for themselves. Obviously, the promise was ludicrous and proved to be completely phony. Reagan tripled the national debt and left his hand picked successor with then record budget deficits.
George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had the unenviable task of cleaning up Reagan’s mess. Both of them raised taxes on the wealthy and cut spending. At the same time, the conservative Republicans in Congress opposed the 1990 and 1993 budgets and even predicted that Clinton’s 1993 budget would cause a recession and increase the deficit. Obviously, they were dead wrong since Clinton bequeathed to George W. Bush a $5 trillion surplus projected over 10 years.
In the words of John Kasich, Bush and the Republicans in Congress then “blew a $5 trillion surplus.” When Bush and the Republicans cut taxes in 2001 and 2003, they predicted an economic boom and that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. Instead, by the time Bush left office in early 2009, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs per month and he dumped an annual $1.3 trillion budget deficit in President Obama’s lap.
Bush and the Republicans’ grandiose promises of a free lunch hit their apogee in the run up to the Iraq War in 2002–03. Prominent members of the Bush Administration predicted U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators, Iraqi oil would finance the reconstruction and the war would be over in a few weeks.
Obviously, those promises of a free war proved to be catastrophically wrong. The Iraq War ground on for over eight years and will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers $6 trillion. Sadly, 4,424 American heroes died in this conflict and an additional 250,000 Iraqi civilians perished.
President Obama was required to clean up the GOP’s huge mess after they promised the American people free tax cuts and a free war. President Obama’s signature domestic achievement — the Affordable Care Act — was fully funded by tax increases on the wealthy. In addition, President Obama reduced the annual deficits he inherited from Bush by 75%.
Trump and the Republicans have continued their practice of writing checks they can’t cash since the former TV reality star took office on January 20, 2017. When Trump and the D.C. Republicans cut taxes in December 2017, they once again promised that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. But as we saw during the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations, all they did was blow up the deficit again.
Since taxes were cut in late 2017, revenues have actually declined when adjusted for inflation. Moreover, corporate tax receipts are down 31% and at their lowest levels in more than 50 years. The Trump Treasury Department has forecast annual $1 trillion deficits for the indefinite future. (Remember all of the fake GOP outrage over the deficit during the Obama Administration?)
Trump’s promise of no sacrifices for anybody has extended into his disastrous trade war with China, Mexico, Canada and the E.U. When Trump kicked off the first international trade war since the Great Depression in the 1930s, he proclaimed that: “Trade wars are good and easy to win.”
I would suspect that Nebraska’s farmers wouldn’t agree with that ridiculous statement. Since the Trump trade war began, China quit buying soybeans from the U.S. Moreover, grain prices are currently at 42 year low. Farm bankruptcies are at their highest level since the farm crisis of the 1980s.
Trump’s tariff increases have not only devastated America’s farmers, they are also a tax increase on the middle class. Trump’s tariffs are the equivalent of a $62 billion tax increase. Because tariffs are regressive, the middle class and the poor bear most of the burden. If Trump keeps his promise to slap more tariffs on Chinese imports, his tax increases will cost Americans $137 billion. The current tariffs cost the average American family $767 per year. If Trump escalates his reckless trade war as promised, the cost would be $2,300 per year for the average family.
Trump’s biggest free lunch claim of all was his ridiculous promise that Mexico would pay for his wall. An April 2016 Trump campaign memo stated: “It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5–10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.” This same memo indicated that Trump believed it would only take Mexico three days to pay for the wall! That memo has since been deleted from the Trump campaign website.
On the campaign trail, promises that Mexico would pay for the wall were a regular staple of the Trump campaign stump speech. It has been estimated that Trump promised something like 200 times that Mexico would pay for the wall. For example, on August 31, 2016, Trump promised: “ “Mexico will pay for the wall, 100 percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for it.”
As we have since discovered, Trump’s wall promise hasn’t been free to the American people. In December 2017, Trump shutdown the government for a record 35 days in order to coerce the American taxpayers to fund this wall. That shutdown cost the American people $11 billion. Moreover, Trump has signaled to members of Congress that he may shutdown the government this fall unless money for his wall is attached to a must pass spending bill.
The reality is that the Republicans believe in a free lunch. However, that free lunch is limited to the top 1% and big corporations. If the Republicans want to go to war or cut taxes for the rich, no one asks questions. But if a Democrat proposes universal Pre-K or expanded health care coverage, then suddenly the GOP and the mainstream press wants to know how they will pay for it. Boiled down to its essence, the GOP believes in free stuff for the rich and requires everybody else to pay for it.
The GOP likes to frame the issue over whether or not we should support big government. That is a false choice. The real debate isn’t big government versus small government. Instead, Elizabeth Warren framed the real issue correctly: “This election is about one fundamental question: Who does this government work for? Right now it’s working great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. I’m in this fight because I want to make government work for all of us.”