Craig: Where’s the fiscally conservative GOP? |

Craig: Where’s the fiscally conservative GOP?

by Steven Craig

I love when I hear Republicans talking about deficits. They like to suggest that the ballooning national debt, now at $13.6 trillion (a figure that itself dwarfs the entire GDP of many nations), has been incurred strictly through Democratic policies, particularly Obamacare. However, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, that could not be further from the truth.

What has been the single greatest contributor to the current deficit? The correct answer is the Bush tax cuts, which have cost our country a whopping $2.3 trillion since they were enacted in 2001 and 2003. According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly half the cost of all legislation enacted from 2001 to 2007 can be attributed to the tax cuts. If Republicans are serious about fiscal responsibility, they shouldn’t talk about how we cannot afford health care for everyone – what they should be discussing is how we cannot afford these tax cuts that largely serve the wealthy, and that we must let them expire later this year.

Do you remember when Republicans were the party of the fiscal conservatives who ratcheted in spending to assure a balanced budget? They were like your parents who, after you had made the plans to borrow money to buy a sweet new car, examined your finances and explained why you simply could not afford it. That Republican party is no more. In today’s world, if you want a balanced budget, you better vote for a Democrat.

When was the last time, after all, that we had a balanced budget? Oh, that’s right: It was during the Clinton Administration, when we not only paid off much of the deficits amassed during the Republican administrations of Reagan and Bush I, we even ran a surplus for a number of years. Then we handed our economy over to that brilliant economic strategist, George W. Bush, who became the first U.S. president to have the unmitigated gall to lower taxes during wartime. During the Clinton Administration, the public debt rose and then fell between 1992 and 2000 – from $3 trillion in 1992 to $3.4 trillion in 2000. During the administration of President George W. Bush, however, the gross debt increased from $5.6 trillion in January 2001 to $10.7 trillion by December 2008, rising from 58 percent of GDP to 70.2 percent of GDP, much of this fueled by the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

And just who benefited most from these tax cuts? One of every eight dollars of the tax cuts went to the one in 1,000 taxpayers in the top tenth of 1 percent: i.e. the wealthiest Americans. Now those who benefited most from the tax cuts, and thus have an obvious incentive to retain them, will tell you tax cuts spur economic growth, otherwise known as trickle-down economics. What they won’t tell you, though, is that average taxpayer income was down $3,512, or 5.7 percent, in 2008 compared with 2000 and that job growth in the George W. Bush years was one-seventh that of the Clinton years. Less jobs and less pay? Apparently, those at the bottom of the trickle down pyramid need a siphon to get their benefit.

Still, the Republicans would have you believe that eliminating these tax cuts would detrimentally impact the middle class. While it is true that national health care and the federal stimulus have added to the national debt, they have not burdened us as much as the Bush tax cuts, and at least we got something out of it. If Republicans are serious about tackling the looming deficit, they will allow the Bush tax cuts to expire later this year. While their wealthy friends may love them, the rest of us simply cannot afford them.

Steven is a Silverthorne resident, educator, husband and father of two, and vice-president of the Summit County Library Board. He can be reached at:

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