Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Facts Are a Funny Thing

Conservatives lie. This is a fact. From the most rabid teabagger to the "moderate" Republican, when it comes to economics, they are liars. Righties love to make claims that revolve around Pres. Obama being such a big spender and the cause for all of the country's economic woes. Those with the facts on their side understand that former Pres. Bush inherited a budget surplus, massively reduced taxes, started two wars and created an expensive new entitlement, and left office in the midst of the country's greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. The Republican Congress went in lockstep with every one of those moves.

Now, we're here in 2011, and those same people who did all the spending and caused the deficits are now claiming that if we don't follow their plan, the US will suffer an even greater economic calamity than in 2008. Here's the problem...they are failing to actual deal with the causes of what they consider to be such a perilous situation. You cannot claim that budget deficits are an emergency that must be dealt with while refusing to look at the other side of the ledger: taxes.

This is basic math, people. If you want the deficit to decline, you must either a) curtail spending or b) raise taxes or c) do both. For the past three decades, all we have heard from the conservatives is that cutting taxes for the wealthy - the "job creators" - will allow them to hire more people and therefore, the benefits will eventually trickle down to everyone. The problem with this idea is that the facts don't bear this out.

In Pres. Clinton's 1993-94 budget, he raised taxes, nominally, on those at the top of the income bracket and on corporations. Every Democrat supported it. Every Republican opposed it. The Republicans used the issue in the 94 midterms and won big. Regardless of the GOP victory, those tax rates remained until the next president, and the US saw among the greatest economic expansion in the country's history. There were some spending cuts, to be fair, proposed by the Republicans. It was the balance of the two - moderate tax increases and moderate spending cuts - that produced the prosperity. When Pres. Clinton left office in January 2001, the US budget had a surplus.

Then came W. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 - which removed an estimated $1.8 trillion from the treasury - are the single greatest contributor to the current deficit. Add the wars into the mix, and the Republicans' failure to reduce spending in any way, and Bush left office without a surplus, and with more than  $5 trillion added to the deficit. Obviously, reducing taxes did not decrease the deficit as conservative economists claimed it would. But what about jobs?

So far, since Pres. Obama's inauguration in January 2009 (aprx. 2.5 years ago), there is a higher net job increase than during the entire eight years of Pres. Bush. Hell, there were more private sector jobs created just in 2010 than during the entire Bush presidency.

Under Obama, there has been some increased spending, but it has paled in comparison to the Bush spending spree (note the chart above). The Iraq War is all but over, the no-bid contract scheme of the Bush years has been replaced by competitive bidding, and over 40% of the stimulus package were tax cuts for the middle class (and Republicans have always disputed the notion that tax cuts are spending, so they can't really count that now).

So, since the deficit is largely the result of Republican tax and spend policies, why does anyone believe that the solution is to follow the same path we did to get us here? Under a balanced approach, like during the Clinton years, a policy of moderate tax increases on the top earners and moderate spending cuts - including the military - we would likely achieve the same results as we did then. 

That is, essentially, the proposal favored by President Obama and the Democrats (most of 'em). Obama, however, tilted his proposal much more toward what the Republicans want by offering a 3-to-1 ratio of spending decreases to revenue increases. This, in spite of the fact that most economists say that cutting government spending during a recession causes job losses. But, in the spirit of compromise, the president deferred mostly to the Republicans. And they have shit all over him for his trouble!

None of the current proposals from the Republican Tea Party offer any revenue increases, and most of them suggest deep cuts to social programs like Social Security and Medicare (even though Social Security does not contribute even one cent to the deficit). It has been conservative dogma for decades that social spending is horrible and must be stopped. The GOP voted almost unanimously on a proposal - the Ryan Plan - that would eliminate Medicare and turn it into a private voucher system. None of the proposals from the right offer any decline in military spending.

Poll after poll after poll show that the country favors a balanced Obama/Clinton style approach, and believe that taxes should be on the table. When asked, specifically, about taxes on millionaires and billionaires, the numbers are upwards of 70% support. 

Yet if you watched this debate on television, you would wind up thinking that Obama only wants to raise taxes and refuses to cut spending, and that the American people favor the tea party proposal. Neither of those are true.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. Facts are not liberally biased. The American people continuously speak on this issue, and the Republican Tea Party continues to ignore their voices. Why the Democrats aren't more aggressive in pursuing their agenda - when the people are so clearly in favor of it - is both a mystery and a statement on just how broken the US Congress is. When the will of the American people can be thwarted by a fake filibuster and tea party demagoguery, we really are fucked.

The debt ceiling needs to be raised today. Allowing the US to default might seem like good politics for teabaggers, but it will undeniably be a disaster for the country's economy. If you are someone who feels that a bad economy is good for your 2012 prospects, you are a selfish, cynical asshole.

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