Republicans Own the US Deficit

September 10, 2012
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What was  crystal clear  in the speech by Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention is that the Republicans own the US National Debt. Bill  showed that the US Deficits are Republican spawned. Bill alluded to the two critical reasons that the US is so heavily in debt. Both are Republican near treasonous actions.

Starve the Beast is the Republican strategy of deliberately over-spending and giving unwarranted tax breaks in order to have the resulting accumulated deficits force massive cutbacks in programs. President Ronald Reagan was the first to adopt this strategy, albeit to help combat an  economic recession. But that is the flaw in the argument – “Starve the Beast” quickly becomes its own excuse for Republicans abandoning their traditional business acumen for balancing the Federal Budget and indulging in excessive overspending to curry favor from their special interests.

Contrast Republicans “Starve the Beast” with the Democrats Carter/Clinton formulation of “Pay As You Go” budgeting  policy that requires that if you raise spending in one sector you must cut spending in other programs or  raise revenues to keep the budget in balance. This is the elementary arithmetic that Bill Clinton spoke  so clearly about in his DNC speech and which Congressional  Republicans have roundly  rejected in key votes not just recently but over the past 12 years. Following Reagan and the Bushes lead, Republicans have adopted  overspending  and abandoned budget balancing. Instead, Republicans have  labeled unbalanced tax cuts  aimed primarily at the wealthy as  Trickle Down  Economics, and stuck with this near treasonous policy  for the past 30 years as shown in the table below:

Years President End Debt/GDP as % Increase debt in $B Change Debt/GDP as %
1957–1961 Eisenhower-Rep 55.2% +20 -5.2%
1961–1965 Kennedy-Dem 46.9% +30 -8.3%
1965–1969 Johnson-Dem 38.6% +43 -8.3%
1969–1973 Nixon-Rep 35.6% +101 -3.0%
1973–1977 NixonFord-Rep 35.8% +177 +0.2%
1977–1981 Carter-Dem 32.5% +288 -3.3%
1981–1985 Reagan-Rep 43.8% +823 +11.3%
1985–1989 Reagan-Rep 53.1% +1,050 +9.3%
1989–1993 Bush-Rep 66.1% +1,483 +13.0%
1993–1997 Clinton-Dem 65.4% +1,018 -0.7%
1997–2001 Clinton-Dem 56.4% +401 -9.0%
2001–2005 Bush-Rep 63.5% +2,135 +7.1%
2005–2009 Bush-Rep 84.2% +3,971 +18.2%
2009–2011 Obama-Dem 99.6% +2,888 +10.3%
Source

The chart above shows how Republican Presidents have added the lions share to the US Deficit starting with Ronald Reagan. The ratio of  Total Federal Debt to GDP [Gross Domestic Product that measures the total annual economic activity] is  a better measure of the  trend in deficit increase and who is responsible. After World War II the US Deficit was bigger than the GDP – 117% . It is currently 100%  compared with Japan at 220%, Greece at 160% and Italy at 120%. However, it is most important to follow the pattern of US debt levels after the wartime peak.

From Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, the deficits as a % of  GDP declined. In the GOP NIxon/Ford presidency there is  the first sign of  unhealthy increase in debt as it grows faster than GDP. But under Democrat Jimmy Carter the growth declines. However, when Republican Ronald Reagan gave the OK to “Starve the Beast” deficit spending he increased the deficit ratio by a whopping 20.6% and tripled the size of the National Debt. George Bush Senior then added 13.3% to the Debt to GDP ratio. When Democrat  Bill Clinton took the Presidency and  switched to a “Pay As You Go” budget strategy, the debt ratio dropped by nearly 10%. Then under Republican George Bush Junior the debt increased by a monster $6trillion and the debt ratio increased by a monster 25.3%.

Ask any Republican- why such large increases of the national debt under their Presidential watch? The excuses start with the Democratic Congress forced the issue [false claim because the Senate was under Republican control in the Reagan years and 6 of the 8 George Bush Jr years the GOP controlled all of Congress] or that economic recovery required deficit spending or that Defense requirements justified  extra spending as in the Iraq-Kuwait action and then the Iraq War of the two Bush Presidencies.

But also note that under President Obama the debt  has risen by a significant $2.9trillion and a debt ratio of 10.3%. Part of the story here is a wrecked economy by the Financial Sector for the worst  downturn  since the Great Depression. But the more significant factor is the reason  why the Republicans own the deficit.

Deliberate Sabotage of the Economic Recovery

If  “Starve the Beast” strategy is willing to deliberately create ever larger and more unmanageable deficits in the whole US Economy why not carry this one step further and sabotage every step attempted by President Obama to correct the economic downturn. And that has been the NO strategy pusued by the Republicans over the past 4 years. Look at the record:

TheGuardian – even the Brits take Republicans to task for their scorched earth, anti-Obama stance in Congress

let’s begin with focusing on the dominant political dynamic of the past four years. It’s not about President Obama’s legislative agenda or his post-partisan dreams, but rather the unceasing and unprecedented obstructionism of the Republican party. From day one of his presidency (actually, even before Obama took office), Republicans made the conscious decision to not just simply oppose Obama’s entire policy agenda, but to actively and flagrantly thwart it. They promiscuously used the filibuster to block even the holding of votes on Democratic proposals in the Senate and punished party members who contemplated the idea of working together with Obama or – even worse – compromising with him.

Indeed, that Obama was even able to pass an $800bn stimulus measureand comprehensive healthcare reform is perhaps the single most surprising political story, not just of the past four years, but indeed the past 40. The Republicans’ obstructionist “successes” have taken a heavy toll and can be seen most dramatically in US economic performance since 2009. When fiscal policy has been expansive – as in the case of the stimulus being passed only a few weeks after Obama took office – the result has been job creation and economic growth (albeit of the more tepid variety). When Congress has adopted GOP-favored policies of austerity – spending cuts and reliance on tax cuts to stimulate the economy – the results have been far worse.

By consistently opposing and blocking any effort by Obama and the Democrats to grow the economy through additional stimulus measures, like the president’s job bill, and even seeking to intimidate the Federal Reserve into focusing its attention on inflation rather than unemployment, they have actively undermined policies with the potential to spark an economic turnaround. While one can debate the morality of such an approach, the political results speak for themselves. An underperforming economy has harmed the president’s political prospects and made him far more vulnerable to defeat than he would have been if Republicans had supported or, at least, not completely obstructed his stimulus efforts. This creates a rather disturbing political dynamic: namely, that the GOP strategy of obstructing Obama’s agenda was political savvy and their only real hope of ensuring his defeat in 2012.

In effect, the British are calling the Republicans morally corrupt if not outright treasonous.

Huffington Post – Robert Draper Book: GOP’s Anti-Obama Campaign Started Night Of Inauguration

 As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington. The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured -…includeded Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith….

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform. “If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”….”You will remember this day,” Draper reports Newt Gingrich as saying on the way out. “You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.”

The scorched earth NO strategy was formulated right at the outset of the Obama presidency and carried out with relentless, ruthless efficiency with the unprecedented use of the Filibuster rule in the Senate and the taking of the House in 2010. Because the Economic Stimulus, Jobs Program and Infrastructure Initiatives among other recovery plans  were cut down, the Economic downturn turned worse. This in turn made the GOP claim that Obama had blown the economic recovery more plausible.  Such political malfeasace is tantamount to  treason.

Forbes - Here is a sample of  a GOP scorch-bearer citing the self-fulfilling nature of the GOP NO-To-Obama policy in Congress

Beta – Commentary: The GOP’s Scorched-Earth Policy Against Obama

So why is it, now that Barack Obama is president, that the GOP wants to dig in and refuses to compromise? Even in the midst of an economic crisis that begs for them to come together and work with the Democrats and the White House and pass something as badly needed as the jobs bill, the GOP refuses to budge. In a severe economic crisis, the pain is generally felt among both parties’ most partisan constituency. I’m quite sure that as many middle-class Republicans as Democrats are suffering in this economy. Surely the GOP can’t be so callous as to let their goal of bringing down the president stop them from doing what is right for the country. Yet, according to Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation and the lone Republican in the Obama Administration, this is exactly the case with the current crop of GOP legislators.  LaHood says that the Republicans, led by the Tea Party, have put defeating Obama above creating jobs. In a twisted kind of scorched-earth policy, the GOP has been stonewalling Obama’s effort to fix the economy with the hope that the majority of people who supported him in 2008 will turn against him in 2012. Speaking to his party’s inaction, LaHood told Newsweek and The Daily Beast: “The crowd that was elected the last time not only came here to do nothing, they also came to put down the president. And the way to put him down is not to give him any kind of opportunity to be successful.”

This article describes the change in nature of the political process started under Newt Gingrich and carried out by the Tea Party faction within the GOP.

NYTimes – Paul Krugman describes the Republican tactics:  Obstruct and Exploit

A year ago President Obama proposed boosting the economy with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases, aimed in particular at sustaining state and local government employment. Independent analysts reacted favorably. For example, the consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimated that the act would add 1.3 million jobs by the end of 2012. There were good reasons for these positive assessments.

Although you’d never know it from political debate, worldwide experience since the financial crisis struck in 2008 has overwhelmingly confirmed the proposition that fiscal policy “works,” that temporary increases in spending boost employment in a depressed economy (and that spending cuts increase unemployment). The Jobs Act would have been just what the doctor ordered.

But the bill went nowhere, of course, blocked by Republicans in Congress. And now, having prevented Mr. Obama from implementing any of his policies, those same Republicans are pointing to disappointing job numbers and declaring that the president’s policies have failed. Think of it as a two-part strategy. First, obstruct any and all efforts to strengthen the economy, then exploit the economy’s weakness for political gain. If this strategy sounds cynical, that’s because it is.

Paul Krugman defines clearly what he calls cynical and I call treasonous Republican Obstruct and Exploit strategy. Thus, the GOP has declared itself with its combination of unrelenting lies and deception and now treasonous political strategy as no longer a coherent and trusted political party. With a trusted political party one can at the very least, expect them to be able to tell the public in detail its future political policy and intentions, but the Republican are obscuring and hiding those as surely as Mitt Romney fails to disclose his taxes. The public needs to say NO not just to Romney/Ryan but also the equally complicit Republican Senators and Congressmen  and defeat them enmasse in the upcoming elections. It must be made clear to the GOP at every level that deception and political treason are unacceptable to the American public.

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