The Republicans Are Deficit Frauds — They Just Voted To Blow Up The Deficit Again
For reasons unknown to me, the Republican Party still has a reputation in many circles as the party of fiscal responsibility. Many voters believe this and even many reporters in the mainstream press subscribe to this theory. The next time you are at a cocktail party or chatting on Facebook, ask one of your Republican friends who was the last GOP president to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. The answer will startle most people. It was Dwight Eisenhower in 1960.
Beginning with Nixon, every Republican President has increased the deficit he inherited from his Democratic or Republican predecessor. Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 all increased the deficit after they took office. There are no exceptions. Conversely, the last three Democratic presidents — Carter, Clinton and Obama — all reduced the deficit they inherited from their Republican predecessors.
It was Ronald Reagan who really kicked off the era of GOP fiscal irresponsibility with his combination of deficit financed tax cuts and increased spending. Reagan ran up the largest deficits since World War II and also ran up the largest peacetime deficits in U.S. history. By the end of his two terms, Reagan had tripled the national debt. Yet conservatives revere Reagan.
George H.W. Bush had the unenviable task of cleaning up Reagan’s deficit mess. After saying: “Read my lips, no new taxes,” Bush signed off on a tax increase in 1990 that was supported by moderate Republicans and Democrats alike. The conservative wing of the GOP led by then back bencher Newt Gingrich opposed this tax increase. Nevertheless, by January 1993, Reagan and Bush 41 — between the two of them — had quadrupled the national debt.
When President Clinton took office, he inherited a slow growth economy emerging from a recession and a then record budget deficit. Once President Clinton took office, the Republicans suddenly became “concerned” about the deficit and demanded that Clinton reduce the deficits they ran up.
To clean up the mess he inherited, Clinton proposed to raise taxes on the wealthy and cut spending. Not one Republican voted for the 1993 Clinton budget. Instead, every Republican predicted that Clinton’s economic program would cause a recession and increase the deficit. For example, John Kasich (then a Republican congressman from Ohio, now that state’s governor) contended that: “I feel bad for the people who really are the working people in this country, people in my family, who are going to get the penalties from people who don’t want to invest more, take any more risks. They’re going to lose their jobs, and that’s the tragedy of this program. We’re going to come back here next year, there will be higher deficits, there will be more spending, we’ll continue to have a very slow economy, people aren’t going to go to work.”
Just how did those Republican predictions of doom and gloom play out? As we know, they were dead wrong. What followed the passage of the 1993 Clinton budget package was the greatest peacetime economic boom in U.S. history. During the Clinton Presidency, 22 million new jobs were created, unemployment declined from 7% to 4%, median family income rose, and poverty declined to its lowest rate in 20 years. The Clinton budget also converted what was then the largest budget deficit in American history to a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next ten years.
Once George W. Bush took office with a GOP controlled Congress, so-called Republican “concern” about the deficit and spending literally evaporated over night. Bush and the Republicans squandered Bill Clinton’s hard earned surplus on two tax cuts for the wealthy and two wars. As John Kasich said about the Republicans who controlled D.C. during the Bush Administration: “They blew a $5 trillion surplus. The projected annual surpluses were quickly spent, unfortunately by Republicans.”
When President Obama took office in January 2009, he inherited an annual deficit of $1.3 trillion or 9.8% of GDP. Moreover, the economy had collapsed and was shedding an alarming 800,000 jobs per month. Bush bequeathed to Obama the most desperate situation any President had inherited from a predecessor since Lincoln in 1861 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. As noted historian Jean Edward Smith wrote: “Rarely in the history of the U.S. has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.”
President Obama and the Democratic Congress immediately got to work in 2009 and passed the Recovery Act, the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank. All of these measures ultimately reduced the deficit in the long term through improved economic growth and tax increases on the wealthy. In addition, President Obama approved the Fiscal Cliff Act of 2013 which repealed most of the failed Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
During the Obama Presidency, the federal deficit was reduced from 9.8% of GDP to 3% of GDP. This is the fastest rate of deficit reduction since the late 1940s. Due to Republican propaganda and press ignorance, this progress on the deficit is virtually unknown. I like to say this is the greatest story never told!
Now that the Republicans control both the White House and the Congress, they are no longer “concerned” about the deficit and spending. During the campaign, Trump proposed plans that would add a minimum of $8 trillion to the national debt. His tax cut would cost $6 trillion and 50% of the benefits would go to the top 1%. Trump’s so-called infrastructure plan — which is in reality another tax cut for the wealthy — would add another $1 trillion to the national debt. Finally, his proposed defense buildup would add yet another $1 trillion to the national debt.
Already, the newly sworn in GOP controlled Congress has begun to take the first steps to blow up the deficit again. Just a few days after they took office earlier this month, the Republicans in Congress voted for a budget resolution that would add $9 trillion to the national debt, return us to annual deficits of $1 trillion and repeal Obama Care. (There is still no replacement plan.) Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry, Bacon and Smith all voted for this reckless budget after railing about deficits and government spending for 8 years during the Obama Administration.
The lesson to be learned here is never, ever take conservatives seriously when they complain about the deficit and spending. Never. The budget deficit is simply a political weapon that the right uses to stop spending they don’t support. Republicans only complain about spending that is for the middle class, the poor, the sick and the elderly. They support deficits if the spending is for the wealthy and the defense budget. It was eight years of fake outrage during the Obama Administration.
What we need to do as activists is continue to engage and contact our members of Congress. I know the Nebraska Congressional Republicans are a tough sell but we still have to try. From what I know, our members of Congress are currently being inundated with phone calls and other contacts. We have to keep it up. We also have to vote in every election. No exceptions. Keep up the good work! We can win this fight!