A nation founded on a tax revolt, Americans simply do not like to pay taxes, any taxes of any kind. We see all taxes as confiscatory and oppressive. And it seems the wealthier we become the stingier we get.
Ask anyone, particularly southerners, and they will tell you that the Republican Party stands for reduced taxes, reduced spending and fiscal conservatism. They will also tell you that the Democrats, whom they call "Tax-and-Spendocrats," go wild with the budget and run up enormous deficits. And they believe this with all their hearts. Too bad it’s not true.
Republican presidents, particularly in the (fortunately) rare times when they have had Republican Congressional majorities, have significantly increased the federal debt far more than the Democrats. Of course these calculations are all done on a percentage of national income (GDP) basis. The logic? If we only have a small income and a small net worth, we can safely assume only a small amount of debt. The safe debt base amount increases with national income and net worth.
The one exception to this trend is Barrack Obama who inherited from George W. Bush the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. In the process of restoring our financial equilibrium his debt numbers came to look more like his Republican predecessors. Close behind is Ronald Reagan, our "Teflon President."
To his everlasting credit Reagan hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union by increasing America’s defense spending, thereby forcing the USSR to follow suit. This strategy eventually bankrupted the already-failing Soviet economy and hastened the dissolution of the Communist Empire. But Reagan failed to fund his increased defense spending with a commensurate tax hike. He expected Congress to cut entitlement and social spending to pay for it. That was naïve. Congresses, Democrat or Republican, are reluctant to give up their pork.
In real dollars, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Kennedy and Carter all reduced the federal debt. The biggest winner in percentage numbers was Harry Truman. But the outstanding overall performer in balancing the budget and amassing revenue surpluses was none other than "Slick Willy" himself, Bill Clinton. He reduced the federal payroll, cut entitlement spending with his "Workfare Act," balanced four federal budgets (1997-2000) and left a hefty budget surplus for his successor. George W. promptly squandered this surplus on tax cuts favoring the very wealthy and became our only president to cut taxes and declare war in the same year. How dumb can one get?
But here is what exasperates me even more, the very essence of duplicity. Of the states that get back more dollars from the federal government than they send to Washington in taxes, some double or more, almost all are solid, rock-ribbed, anti-tax Republican southern states. Mississippi, the reddest of the red, leads the pack. Mississippians get back almost two-and-one-half times what they send to Washington. Add this to the fact that these same states, all professing uncompromising evangelical fundamentalist religious values and morals, solidly voted for Donald Trump. Trump is a thrice-married serial reprobate who makes no pretension of espousing Judeo-Christian values. This has got to be the greatest manifestation of hypocrisy in recent history.
And I ask again; which is worse: tax-and-spend Democrats or borrow-and-spend Republicans?
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at email@example.com.