Can We Finally Kill the Idea of the Republicans as the Party of Fiscal Responsibility?

Both Republican-controlled houses of Congress have now passed a bill to do away with the 2011 sequestration deal and raise both defense and domestic spending in order to pass a budget for the next two years, a bill that will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. So can we finally drive a stake through the heart of the blatantly false claim that the Republican party is the party of fiscal responsibility?

This has never actually been true. They pretend that it is. They claim to be. But the only time they actually vote that way is when a Democrat is in the White House. When a Republican is in the White House, they have always voted for more and more spending, and for more and more tax cuts to reduce revenue, and the result has always been exploding deficits. How many times do they have to yank the football away before everyone just realizes that they’re just lying?

Even without this budget deal, the Treasury Department had already announced that the annual deficits for 2018, 2019 and 2020 would average more than a trillion dollars a year, mostly because of the lost revenue from the tax cuts. Now add to that another $500 billion in new spending and the deficit is going to more than double. And if you go back and look at the last 50 years, you’ll see that this has been the case continually when a Republican is in the White House.

And this is during good economic times. When Obama took office in 2009, the economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression. The stimulus package he pushed through was necessary to help spur some economic growth and interest rates were at rock bottom, so the borrowed money was at as low a cost as it could be. Now we’re at near-full employment and interest rates are going up, which only magnifies the cost of this.

They’ve invented a whole mythology to explain this, of course, but it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. They love to blame it on Democrats controlling Congress, but even for St. Ronald the Magnificent (the fictional Ronald Reagan that exists only in their fevered imaginations), that simply wasn’t true. The Republicans controlled the Senate for the first six years Reagan was in office, but that isn’t even the most important fact that disproves the myth. I went back and looked up all of Reagan’s proposed budgets and compared them to the budgets passed by Congress. Guess what?

In 1982, Reagan proposed a budget of $508 billion; Congress passed a budget of $515 billion, a $7.1 billion increase. 1983: Congress passed a budget $8.7 billion higher than Reagan requested. 1984: Congress passed a budget $17.1 billion lower than Reagan requested. 1985, $5.3 billion lower than Reagan requested. 1986, $13.1 billion lower. 1987, $3.7 billion lower. 1988, $4.7 billion higher. 1989, $14.1 billion higher. The final result: in those 8 years, Congress passed budgets $4.7 billion lower than the budgets Reagan requested. So much for the ridiculous claim that Reagan was a fiscal conservative and an enemy of big government.

And just to remind you of what Trump said while running for office, take a look at this Washington Post interview from March 31, 2016:

Donald Trump: “We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt.”

Bob Woodward: “How long would that take?”

Trump: “I think I could do it fairly quickly, because of the fact the numbers…”

Woodward: “What’s fairly quickly?”

Trump: “Well, I would say over a period of eight years. And I’ll tell you why.”

Woodward: “Would you ever be open to tax increases as part of that, to solve the problem?”

Trump: “I don’t think I’ll need to. The power is trade. Our deals are so bad.”

Woodward: “That would be $2 trillion a year.”

Trump: “No, but I’m renegotiating all of our deals, Bob. The big trade deals that we’re doing so badly on. With China, $505 billion this year in trade. We’re losing with everybody.”

First, he clearly does not understand the difference between budget deficits and trade deficits. We could reverse every single bilateral trade deficit we have and turn them into huge trade surpluses and it would have very little effect on our budget deficits. And only someone who is irretrievably stupid, pathologically dishonest or living in a fantasy world where the rivers flow with Diet Coke and unicorns defecate Big Macs on the White House lawn could ever believe that the $20 trillion in accumulated debt could be paid off in 8 years.

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