Republicans Not The Party of Fiscal Responsibility

Republicans hope to capitalize on any dissatisfaction with Obama, and place the blame on him for problems created by the Republicans, in order to return to power. Andrew Sullivan explains the absurdity of this:

Charlie Cook and others are predicting a sea-change in public mood, with support for the GOP rising because of deficits. This strikes me as an amazing thing. It makes Charlie Brown, the football and Lucy look like the model of intelligent interaction. If you believe in fiscal conservatism, the last place on earth you should look for salvation is the GOP. They have single-handedly destroyed America’s finances since the 1980s, with the sole exception of George H W Bush, who was rejected by his own party precisely because of his fiscal sobriety. The current debt is overwhelmingly inherited by Obama, and it would have been nuts to enter office in the downdraft of the sharp recession and set about cutting spending. Bush had eight years to restrain it and he didn’t. He let it rip. Think of the GOP’s phony concerns about the cost of the current healthcare bill and compare it with the GOP’s prescription drug entitlement that Rove rammed through the Congress when the GOP held total power. The costs then were about eight times as great as the proposed costs now. But that was a Republican measure and so it doesn’t somehow count as evidence of fiscal irresponsibility. But Nancy Pelosi only has to raise an eye-brow and the alarms go off.

Sullivan also notes this comment to a column by Bruce Bartlett:

The last Republican who left the office of the presidency with the federal public debt as a percentage of GDP less than when he entered was Richard Nixon (FY 1975). The last Republican who left the office of the presidency with a federal deficit less than 2.7% of GDP was Dwight Eisenhower (FY 1961). Since WW II no Democratic president has ever left office with the federal public debt as a percentage of GDP more than when he entered. And since WW II no Democratic president has ever left office with a federal deficit more than 2.6% of GDP.

We already have at least one party of fiscal responsibility. It’s called the Democratic Party.

John Cole comments:

I find it amazing when I read the right-wing blogs and they talk about fiscal conservatism and fiscal responsibility. It is just too damned funny. But what is kind of creepy is that they sincerely believe their own bullshit- it is like the last several decades never happened. In their minds, the Republicans really are responsible stewards of the nation’s finances. It is mind-boggling.

Joe Klein adds:

…there are only two presidents in the past 50 years who took the national debt seriously after it exploded when Lyndon Johnson refused to fund the Vietnam war–George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The Clinton experience is particularly important: he raised taxes to address the deficit. The Republicans said it would throw the economy into recession. It didn’t.  Clinton’s 1993 economic plan threw the economy into…a massive expansion and budget surpluses that reduced the national debt significantly.  (I remember reading pieces at the turn of the 21st century about the consequences of eliminating the national debt.)

George W. Bush wiped out all that. His tax cuts, overwhelmingly for wealthy Americans were bad enough. Then he passed a major entitlement–prescription drugs for the elderly–without paying for it. That’s what created the hole we were in when President Obama, acting to ameliorate a major economic meltdown, widened the deficit with his stimulus package…which, by the way, deserves some credit for preventing us from going off an economic cliff last winter.

Furthermore, Obama has promised that the health care reform plan will be revenue neutral. It may cost $1 trillion over 10 years, but he will raise $1 trillion to pay for it. Of course, Republicans are blocking most of the pathways to raising the revenue…and Democrats are blocking one important revenue sour (eliminating the employer-provided health care deduction), which, ironically, is the surest

But make no mistake: If you believe the national debt is a big problem, don’t blame the Democrats. Without question, they have been far more responsible–and, dare I say, conservative–party when it comes to balanced budgets for the past 30 years.

There is one necessary correction to Klein’s post. Bush’s Medicare D plan did provide some benefits for the elderly, and certainly was fiscally irresponsible, but it was primarily a program of corporate welfare for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to reward them for their support.

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  1. 1
    Mike's I.P. alter-ego says:

    Ever heard of a married couple fighting? They seem to disagree on everything but for better or worse they stay married. Well, that is how I see the Republican and Democrat parties, a married couple. Perhaps if you want to say one of them spends and creates debt far more than the other one, but I don’t see the other one fighting tooth and nail to stay within a budget. As far as I’m concerned I don’t care if it is the husband trying to charge on a credit card or the wife writing a check, I say DECLINED! NO more, maybe I’ll get overwhelmed by the spenders on one side or both sides, but I’m going to fight them as much as I can. Subsidized medical coverage for everyone who needs it- budget neutral! That’s Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football if I ever heard it.

  2. 2
    Nick says:

    Usually Andrew Sullivan makes me gag. But he has a point here. In fact, except for Nixon in FY1969, no Republican president has balanced a budget since Eisenhower.

  3. 3
    Fritz says:

    I would need to look up the numbers, but I ind it *really* hard to believe that the debt as a percentage of GDP did not grow under LBJ.

  4. 4
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “I would need to look up the numbers, but I ind it *really* hard to believe that the debt as a percentage of GDP did not grow under LBJ.”
    It did, and Joe Klein specifically says so (re: the debt exploding when LBJ refused to fund Vietnam) in the quoted text. One can’t have massive military spending combined with expansion of the government’s domestic spending without raising taxes somewhere to pay for it. This is one of the biggest reasons liberals are so disappointed in President Obama for his commitment to Aghanistan.

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