In the 1980 presidential primary campaign Ronald Reagan claimed his tax cut plan favorable to large corporations and high-income contributors would eventually pay for itself through increased economic activity producing more taxable income. This was known as “Supply-Side Economics.” Sound good?
Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work that way. The wealthy elite, conservative by nature, will invest only when they see opportunities for increased dividends and capital growth. And their investments are never limited by a lack of money anyway. So-called “paid for” tax cuts have never worked and never will. George H. W. Bush, also a 1980 primary candidate, called Reagan’s plan “Voodoo Economics.”
A budget element of near sacramental status to conservatives is the avoidance of debt through deficit spending. But in spite of their traditions of frugality, federal budget records show that Republican presidents have generally added far more to the federal debt as a percentage of national income (GDP) than the Democrats. Records also show that the president who created more debt than any other post-World War II chief executive was the American right wing’s patron saint, Ronald Reagan. And guess who created the least debt, delivered four balanced budgets and left his successor with a budget surplus? None other than Slick Willy himself, William Jefferson Clinton. But George W. Bush quickly squandered this surplus on tax cuts for the rich and his foolish Iraq War. Republicans Gerald Ford, Reagan and both Bushes added significantly to the federal deficit. Of the Democrats only Obama, who inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, ranks high on indebtedness, mostly from reversing the recession in his first term.
While our absolute debt level seems to grow more or less constantly, what really counts is our debt-to-GDP ratio. This, like private debt ratings, is based on our ability to pay. Of Post-World War II presidents only Clinton succeeded in lowering the federal debt-to-GDP level. And to further challenge Republican fairy tales, let’s look at overall economic performance.
It is “common knowledge” to some that our economy performs better under the Republicans, the “Business Party,” right? Independent studies, however, indicate otherwise. An exhaustive analysis by the Economics Department of Princeton University over a 65-year study period revealed that our economy performed 1.6 times better and private sector job creation was 2.5 times greater under the Democrats. That was a 65-year study, mind you. But of even more concern is the soaring federal debt under GOP presidents, particularly Reagan. Reagan created more debt than any president since World War II.
Republicans seem no more reluctant to spend than Democrats, especially if it’s military spending. They just don’t want to pay for it (I didn’t know my wife was a Republican!).
Ever wondered why do Republicans hate Bill Clinton so? That’s easy. He co-opted their own programs, pushed them through a Democratic Congress, made them work and then rubbed their noses in it. No wonder they hate him. Wouldn’t you?
In November we will have the choice of “Tax-and-Spend Democrats” or “Borrow-and-Spend Republicans.” And remember, when you enter that voting cubicle nobody knows how you really voted but you and God. Vote your true conscience.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at email@example.com.