This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
“Watch what we do, not what we say.” (Famous Republican advice.)
The Reagan Revolution was first and foremost about cutting the taxes paid by the rich and corporations. Now, almost 30 years later, the United States of America is drowning in debt. And that is exactly what they wanted to happen.
There were the reasons for the tax cuts Reagan said, and there was the plan Reagan had. Reagan SAID that there was this thing called the “Laugher Curve” that he said proved cutting taxes would actually increase government revenue. But what they were saying was a smokescreen, something to tell the rubes. Increasing government revenue was the last thing Reagan and his cohorts wanted. They knew (and have since said so) cutting taxes would lead to terrible deficits. They called this a “strategic deficit.” This was the plan.
Bankrupting our government (We, the People) was the plan and today we can see that it was what they did. They didn’t want revenue to increase because the idea was to “starve the beast.” Reagan called it “cutting their allowance.”
The plan was that by cutting the funding for government, government would have to cut back on what it does: regulating business, protecting regular people against powerful interests, building infrastructure, educating kids, taking care of the poor and elderly. With government (We, the People) out of the way businesses could be unleashed and really start to make money. And for those who could afford to pay, private companies would take over those other functions. That was called “privatization.”
Infrastructure? We had plenty of infrastructure back then – grab the cash now and worry about that later. (It’s later now.)
So taxes were cut. And immediately the budget went into deficit and the government started borrowing. The debt started to grow. That was the plan. They said so.
Conservatives well understood that the public was not behind their plan. This was why it was explained as a way to increase government revenue. “Watch what we do, not what we say” is about tricking the public – deceive people by telling them you are doing one thing while really doing another. They knew that if the public came to understand their plan they would all be voted out of office. The idea was to force the other party to make the cuts.
Every time someone did try to cut the public outcry was enormous. So they just kept borrowing, intentionally trying to make the debt get so bad that eventually the government would be faced with bankruptcy.
Clinton, for a time, foiled their plans. In 1993 there was a hard-fought battle to raise taxes at the top by just a small amount. Every Republican voted against it. The public was saturated with lie after lie about how this would destroy the economy. Of course, the economy boomed in the 1990s following the Clinton tax increases and by the end of Clinton’s term the government was paying off debt so quickly that Alan Greenspan called for Bush II to again cut taxes on the rich, saying it was dangerous to pay off the government debt – yes, the same Alan Greenspan who now says we have to get rid of Social Security to pay off debt. The plan.
Bush called restoration of deficits “incredibly positive news”
Seven months after taking office, George W. Bush learned that his budgets had already erased the previous administration’s huge surplus — that was paying off our country’s debt at a rapid rate — and had instead forced the country to start borrowing heavily again. Bush said the huge deficit was “Incredibly positive news” because it will create “a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” That’s right, massive deficits were “incredibly positive news.” The plan.
Deficit hawks today
Now we’re experiencing part two of The Plan: use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. The deficit cutters insist that the government should cease investment in infrastructure, educating kids, taking care of the poor and elderly and protecting regular people against powerful interests. First and foremost they want to cut Social Security. They blocked a reasonable health care plan in the name of “less spending.” They fight every effort to stimulate the economy and create jobs so that We, the People can get out of this unemployment emergency. (High unemployment puts tremendous wage pressure on the remaining workers.)
Are we going to fall for it? Are we going to walk right into part two of The Plan? Or are we going to restore the tax base, which is the lifeblood of democracy. Taxes on the wealthy and big corporations are what brings the ability of We, the People to control our own destiny instead of yielding always to the powerful interests.
This is the choice we are faced with. The “deficit hawks” are offering only The Plan. So far restoring the tax base back to where it was is off the table, not even to be discussed. Are we going to allow that? Or are We, the People going to fight back and demand that democracy be restored?
Previously: Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling and Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation