Here’s a Viewpoint article by Mary Hatch that appeared in the November 2, 2022, issue of the Mecklenburg Sun titled “Where are those guys?“.
Whatever happened to the fiscally responsible Republican Party?
There was a time in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s when the GOP was fiscally responsible and believed it was also important to protect Social Security. In 1959, President Eisenhower worked with the Democrats to balance the budget and was embarrassed that the federal deficit had grown to $13 billion. He also protected Social Security (per Rudolph Penner, Tax Policy Center). In 1972, President Nixon raised the amount of cash benefits for Social Security. In 1972, President Ford raised the Social Security benefit by 10 percent based on cost of living increases. Gerald Ford, a Republican, also worked across the aisle to reduce federal spending and balancing the budget. But, all the conservative budgeting and protection of Social Security became compromised when Ronald Reagan came to office in 1981.
Reagan was not a big fan of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He thought they were “handouts.” (In reality, Americans pay into Social Security and Medicare from their paychecks and it is due to them — we are entitled to it. The federal deficit was already at $750 billion. Reagan’s advisors, Jack Kemp and Senator Roth, proposed 30 percent tax cuts on businesses and individuals. Treasury Secretary Don Regan had doubts about the huge deficit and urged Reagan to cut spending as Social Security was running out of money even though Nixon had left a surplus in it.
Instead, President Reagan proposed a $2.3 billion reduction in Social Security. Huge deficits under his watch caused the national debt to triple from $700 billion at the inception of his administration to $2 trillion by the end of 1988. In 1989, George H.W. Bush Sr. inherited from Reagan a whopping deficit and national debt. Bush was forced to break his campaign pledge of “no new taxes” and because he did this, he was not re-elected.
When Bill Clinton was elected in 1993, the national debt under George H.W. Bush was $3 trillion, which increased interest payments on the debt. Long-term interest rates were high and inflation was expected. Clinton enlisted fiscally conservative appointees. Even though Alan Greenspan was a Republican, Bill Clinton solicited him as Fed Chairman. Greenspan said Clinton showed courage to fight for deficit reduction. Clinton proposed a five-year plan to cut $500 billion from the debt. He raised taxes on the rich and gave people on welfare two years to transition off. His budget was a hard fight in Congress and only passed by one vote. But, after a year, long-term interest rates were going down and the plan was starting to work. GDP grew 8.5 percent and 5.5 percent annually. Business investment, housing and consumer spending all rose.
In 1996, Clinton was re-elected. In 1995, the stock market was up 18 percent — biggest growth in 20 years. In addition, there was a dotcom boom and the longest postwar economic boom in history. In 2000, there was the largest surplus in the government since 1948 — $400 billion was added to the federal budget. Families had a gain of $8,000 in income on average. Republicans claimed credit even though not one Republican voted for the deficit reduction bill in 1993.
When George W. Bush Jr. took office in 2001, Clinton left a federal budget surplus of $270 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimated over 10 years it could rise to $5.6 trillion. Greenspan thought $3.1 trillion should go to Social Security and $2.5 trillion to the rest of the budget. But George W. Bush bragged, “Not only no new taxes, but tax cuts, so help me God.” He wanted a $1.6 trillion tax cut over 10 years. Bush got a $1.35 trillion tax cut and tax rebates of $600 per household. Greenspan said, “Before the checks were in the mail, the federal revenues plunged, income tax payment to treasury came up billions of dollars short.” The surplus was wiped out overnight. The S&P 500 fell more than 20 percent. 2001 was in a recession. The stock market apparently appreciates fiscal responsibility and surpluses, not deficits. By 2003, the nation was in deflation. The housing boom helped, but 28 percent of purchases in housing were by investors. This was the first time there was a great inequality between workers and executives
The next Republican elected was Trump in 2017. As soon as he was in office, he passed the $1.9 trillion tax bill favoring corporations and the wealthy. Trump said it would cause a boom. Two years after the cuts, business was declining, as well as factory closings and layoffs. (Center for American Progress, 12/19/19). Budget deficits became higher. Many CEOs said they didn’t even need the tax cuts because they were sitting on 2.3 trillion cash reserves. Trump could have used the money for the infrastructure and apprenticeship programs which he thought were a good idea. He could have signed the bill for that. Instead, Biden fought for it when he was elected and entered office with another whopping Republican deficit.
It appears that ever since Reagan’s tenure, the Republican playbook has been to cut taxes for the rich and to cut Social Security and to privatize it. Privatizing it is code for getting rid of it. We see how Congress handles the banks when they keep crashing because of risky investments, why would we want Congress and Wall Street to handle our Social Security money? According to an article by CAP 8/12/20, Trump is reported to say, if he gets back into office, he will defund Social Security by eliminating the payroll tax which funds the program.” There you have it. If you are an American that does not need Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, then vote Republican. If you need these services which were enacted by a Democrat during the Great Depression (President Franklin Roosevelt), then vote Democrat. They have always fought the fight for the middle class. Since Reagan’s era, the GOP has not and is not the friend of Social Security, the so-called “handouts.”