Just the facts....
Starting in 1977 President Carter tried to control government spending even during inflationary times. The national debt increased an average of 9% per year while he was in office, and his policies eventually brought inflation under control with the help of a semi-cooperative Democratic Congress. He was thrown out of office after one term for making and implementing the hard decisions required to cut spending and deal with the energy crisis.
As President Reagan entered office in 1981 he repeatedly called for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, yet never submitted a balanced budget himself. Many on the right reflexively blame the Democratically controlled Congress for the “big spending” during his administration, even though Republicans controlled the Senate for the first six years of his two terms. Only during the last two years of the Reagan administration was the Congress completely controlled by Democrats, and the records show that the growth of the debt slowed during this period. It appears that the frequently referenced Reagan’s Conservative mythology is contrary to the truth, he was an award winning, record setting liberal spender.
The fact is that Reagan was able to push his tax cuts through both Houses of Congress, but he never pushed through any reduced spending programs. His weak leadership in this area makes him directly responsible for the unprecedented rise in borrowing during his time in office, an average of 13.8% per year. The increase in total debt during Reagan’s two terms was larger than all the debt accumulated by all the presidents before him combined. From 1983 through 1985, with a Republican Senate, the debt was increasing at over 17% per year. While Mr. Reagan was in office this nation’s debt went from just under 1 trillion dollars to over 2.6 trillion dollars, a 200% increase. The sad part about this increase is that it was not to educate our children, or to improve our infrastructure, or to help the poor, or even to finance a war. Reagan’s enormous increase in the national debt was not to pay for any noble cause at all; his primary unapologetic goal was to pad the pockets of the rich. The huge national debt we have today is a living legacy to his failed Neo-Conservative economic policies. Reagan’s legacy is a heavy financial weight that continues to apply an unrelenting drag on this nation’s economic resources.
George Bush Sr. meekly followed in Reagan’s shadow after his election in 1988, by increasing the debt on average a mere 11.8% a year during his four years as President. In his last year in office he quite responsibly worked with Democrats to raise taxes to help reduce the massive yearly increases in the national debt. This bipartisan plan got the growth down to under 11% in 1992, but it was too little too late and didn’t make much difference in the overall trend. The Neo-Conservatives controlling the Republican Party rewarded him for putting the nation’s future above his party’s ideology by throwing him out of office even though it had hardly been a year since he won the Gulf War.
In 1993 President Clinton inherited the deficit spending problem and did more than just talk about it; he fixed it. In his first two years and with a cooperative Democratic Congress he set the course for the best economy this country has ever experienced. Then he worked with what could be characterized as the most hostile Congress in history, led by Republicans for the last six years of his administration. Yet, under constant personal attacks from the right, he still managed to get the growth of the debt down to 0.32% (one third of one percent) his last year in office. Had his policies been followed for one more year the debt would have been reduced for the first time since the Kennedy administration.
When President Bush II came into office in 2001 he quickly turned all that progress around. With the help of a Republican controlled Congress he immediately gave a massive tax cut based on a failed economic policy; perhaps an economic fantasy describes it better. The last year Mr. Clinton was in office the nation borrowed 18 billion dollars. The first year Mr. Bush II was in office he had to borrow 133 billion. The first tax cut Bush pushed through a willing Republican Congress caused an upswing in government borrowing that was supposed to stimulate the economy, but two years later Bush had to push through yet another tax cut. The second tax cut was needed because it was clear that the first one did not work. Economic history tells us the second did not work either. As a result of all his tax cutting with no cutting in spending, in 2003 President Bush set a record for the biggest single yearly dollar increase in debt in the nation’s history. He did it again in 2004, increasing the debt more than half a trillion dollars. Since 2003 total borrowing has exceeded $500,000,000,000 per year. Even Mr. Reagan never increased the debt that much in a single year; Mr. Reagan’s biggest increase was only 282 billion, half of GWB’s outrageous spending. As a result of the fact that the debt was already pretty high when Bush II entered office, his annual rate of increase is only averaging 7% per year so far. In 2006 he was holding press conferences bragging that the debt was increasing at the rate of only 300 billion dollars a year, yet in reality it was twice that. Again the facts do not match Neo-Con rhetoric.
Of course 7% growth is a misleading figure as it does not make clear that by so drastically increasing the total debt, the amount of the annual US budget dedicated to service the debt has grown to over 20%. Thanks to misguided Neo-Con ideological thinking, over a fifth of our budget does nothing to contribute to the growth or health of the nation.
It does not matter if you call it a war or an occupation, supporting Iraq is expensive. It just boggles the imagination of any fiscally responsible person that the Republican Congress and President have repeatedly cut taxes during this overly aggressive and very expensive era for our military. The nation is borrowing money so that the we can spend more on our military than all the other nations on Earth combined, and still the Neo-Cons are calling for even more tax cuts and even more military spending.
Mr. Bush is constantly claiming that the economy is great! What he leaves out is that he is buying that simulated good economy with his borrowed dollars; it is a false economy that could very well crash the minute the borrowing stops, yet for the sake of our future it must stop.