Wednesday, February 9, 2011

After all these years of bloated deficits, how do Republicans still own the "fiscally conservative" talking point?

Everyone knows that only Republicans are fiscally conservative. There's only one thing: It's not true.

I do not understand how this meme prevails. It's a study in PR and propaganda to rival any other. There may have been a time when Republicans believed in fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, but that time has long passed.

The reality is that the debt explosion that Republicans today rail about began in 1981 with their, now mythically reinvented hero, Ronald Reagan. Here are the facts: Deficits remained relatively flat with Gerald Ford (R) and Jimmy Carter (D). But they ballooned with Reagan (R), $85 billion to $255 billion, and H.W. Bush (R), $255 billion to a peak of $432 billion. With Clinton (D), it decreased all they way back to $18 billion at the end of his term, when under another Republican president, G.W. Bush, with the full support of a Republican congress, it skyrocketed from Clinton's $18 billion to $1.017 trillion in 2008. As David Stockman, Reagan’s first budget director, recently wrote in The New York Times, the “debt explosion resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace … of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.”

As Republicans on the one hand decry our nation’s enormous deficit, successfully blaming Democrats I might add, they also forced Obama to cave on extending the Bush tax cuts, even though the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report that the revenue loss from the Bush tax cuts accounts for about a quarter of the current federal deficit, and if extended, those cuts will be responsible for 54 percent of the yearly deficit. According to the Pew Economic Policy Group, the extension of the Bush tax cuts will cost $3.1 trillion over ten years, with nearly all of the benefits going to the richest 1 percent, those with incomes of more than $500,000 a year.

Yet, somehow, Republicans still manage to own the debate, successfully making fiscal responsibility part of their party platform, campaign slogan and self-professed philosophy - And people buy it - Polls suggest voters are angry about the deficits and are blaming the Democrats. Go figure.

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