Republicans are not fiscal conservatives.

October 13, 2010 | By | 20 Replies More

Increasing numbers of voters point to the growing federal deficits as a major issue for deciding their votes come November, 2010.  If those voters took a look at which of the two major parties is responsible for the current deficit situation, they would not vote for any Republican, anywhere. After all, it was Karl Rove and Dick Cheney who said; “Deficits don’t matter” (and see here).

But, for those which find themselves concerned over ever growing budget deficits and see them as a threat to the financial security of America at large and their children and grandchildren in particular, deficits do matter.  And it’s Republican Presidents who were in charge during the creation of most of the current deficit.

Since Richard Nixon, the tax cut and spend policies of successive Republican Presidents has accounted for the vast majority of the US outstanding national debt. The total percentage of US National Debt accrued under Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Bush II is over 73.2 % of the amount which has been incurred since the beginning of the United States.

Ronald Reagan won the Presidential election in 1980 by claiming that the national debt was at an “all time high of $1 trillion.” Imagine that! In 1980, the entire national debt was at only $1 trillion! Now the national debt is $13.64 trillion and climbing each second.

Bill Clinton added deficits totaling some $1.6 trillion. If we add up all the national debt prior to 1980 plus Bill Clinton’s $1.6 trillion, we get $2.6 trillion. If we include $1.3 trillion arguably attributable (which since the federal fiscal year of 2009 began on October 1, 2008 before Mr. Obama was even elected but, let’s be generous to our tax cut and spend Republican friends!) to the Obama administration, all of those add up to a total of $3.9 trillion.  That leaves $10.74 trillion to Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Bush II.  Since 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, Republican presidents have accounted for a total of 73.2% of the national debt of our nation since it began in 1779. Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Bush II saw the national debt increase 1000% under their fiscal care.

Now some conservatives will argue that it was the Congress and the Democrats that ran up the deficits but this isn’t true. The same folks which gave us the raw numbers of the deficits also ran an analysis of the spending by the respective Congresses (a majority of which were either Republican or dominated by Republicans and so called “Blue Dog Democrats”-which in my opinion are really Republicans) and debunked this myth!

Consider this long consistent history when you next hear Republicans claiming that they are fiscal conservatives.


Category: Economy, Politics

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (20)

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  1. Jim Razinha says:

    I started an analysis a few months ago (tabled for a while to manage real priorities) comparing deficits, debt, both to GDP ratios, adjusting for inflation, etc, as well as government growth – through funding and employees – for administrations and Congresses since Carter, looking at budgets proposed and budgets approved to see if I could debunk some of the Reagan myths of smaller deficits, smaller government, smaller budgets. I hope to get back to it next month but my preliminary findings did support this post's premise easily. (I used the unified budget numbers, which while misleading, are the ones used since Johnson to portray deficits – and the Clinton "surpluses".)

    Congressional control changes did see some budget reductions, but the largest increases were when majorities parties in the Congress matched that in the White House and the largest of the large increases did occur under Republican-Republican governments.

    While I was at it, I also looked at vacation times for the presidents since Carter. Guess who took the most time off? (By corollary, guess which worked the most?)

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    Carter, he never took off, especially after the rabbitt incident at the fishin' pond!

  3. Jim Razinha says:

    I'm trying to find where I found this info, but I compiled it last year in response to a couple of bumper stickers somebody sent me as a joke ("Don't spread my wealth…spread my work ethic!!!", and "Republicans: We work hard, so you don't have to") and also the flap about President Obama going to NYC for $26K

    Days away Term

    From the office

    Carter 79 4 years (5.4%)

    Reagan 335 8 years (11.5%)

    Bush 1 543 (!!) 4 years (37.2%)

    Clinton 152 8 years (5.2%)

    Bush 2 1020 8 years (34.9%)

    Dems 229/12 yrs (5%)

    Reps 1898/20 yrs (26%)

    Now, being retired Navy, I know that the Boss (Admiral, General, Commander in Chief) is never really on vacation, but the Bush family tried harder than the others.

    GWB spent 487 days at Camp David (149 trips), made 11 trips to Kennebunkport (43 days) and a whopping 77 trips to Crawford, Texas in Air Force One (490 days total).

    So, by the percentages, Clinton worked the most though barely more than Carter, and the two Bushes took off the most, tripling/shattering Reagan's then record.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Thanks, Jim. I guess that under the free marketer Bushes, the government was supposed to run itself. I will admit, though, that I'm glad George W didn't do more than he did, because I disagreed with almost everything he did (one exception being that he signed the national no-call list).

  4. Jim Razinha says:

    Hmmm…sorry to folks reading that, the space formatting got lost in the post. I'll retry with placeholders:

    ……………Days away……….Term

    …………From the office

    Carter……… 79……………. 4 years (5.4%)

    Reagan…….. 335……………. 8 years (11.5%)

    Bush 1…….. 543 (!!)……….. 4 years (37.2%)

    Clinton……. 152……………. 8 years (5.2%)

    Bush 2……. 1020……………. 8 years (34.9%)

    Clumsy…let's see if it holds for easier reading

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Food for thought:

    "The government had to borrow 37 cents out of every dollar it spent as tax revenues continued to lag while spending on food stamps and unemployment benefits went up as joblessness neared double-digit levels in a struggling economy."

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    And here's another crazy (but true) statistic:

    "On top of it," Arianna [Huffington] said to {Wall Street Journal's Stephen] Moore, "you guys have got to get serious about our military spending. If you are serious about the deficit, you cannot ignore the fact that we are spending $2.8 billion a week on Afghanistan, on a war that is unnecessary, propping up a corrupt regime. What's your excuse for that?"

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    Let's not forget this chart from a couple of years ago:

    <img src="; alt="Deficit graph" width="525"/>

    Fairly linked to/from the article: Why I’m Upset with Republicans.

    One can find <a href="; title="Google Image Search" rel="nofollow">many similar illustrations.

  8. Karl says:

    "Rebuplican" verses "Democratic" influence upon the National Debt is not what is being shown by the graph represented. If this was shown for the first two years of the current Presedency – as well as the forcast for the next ten years the graph would look greatly different with huge blue spikes and new records again.

    You really need to look at Congress more than simply the President. The President signs or vetos what is sent to him from Congress. When non-fiscal minded leaders of Congress tack all kinds of spending onto bills that a President favors, who's to blame for the out come? Both Congress and the President must accept their responsibility or the voters will hopefully do what is needed, unless they are fiscally irresponsible as well.

    Increases and decreases in National Debt come from Congressional policies and legislation that either faces or ignores the realities of funding verses spending.

    How foolish of any Congress that begins with a Presidential budget recommendation and then just keeps adding on earmarks as if the funding will somehow appear out of thin air, or the debt be passed on to their children.

    How incredulous to put the entire situation upon the President as the sole leader of National fiscal policy.

    Presidents that never veto spending bills have no clue as to their roll in the entire fiscal spending process. Its like having a blank check and you can give it to anyone you would like to see get it.

    Congressional leaders that put social and economic policy ahead of fiscal realities are even more to blame than the President.

    There is suppose to be wisdom in numbers, not distorted party bias that becomes a matter to end all debate and effectively tell anyone paying attention that they just don't care about the debt – they will "give" money to those causes they want to and to the people that have scratched their back.

    Lets see that information figured into the attempted but misleading graph.

  9. Tim Hogan says:

    Karl, the sources are cited, the spending by Congress therein accounted for, the verdict based upon FACTS is in; Republicans are not fiscal conservatives.

    The so-called "blue spikes" you postulate are non-existent, as there have been no Democratic tax decreases except for the Middle Class tax cut from the Stimulus Plan which the GOP now wishes to take away, and then give it to the super-rich to the tune of $731 BILLION (ANOTHER 5.3% increase in our total national debt!)!

    You have no facts, your premises are false, you do remain true to the far right wing neocon fascist racist corporatist Brown Shirt weblog echochamber of Faux News and Co.

    Finally, you simply miss the point; the GOP doesn't want fiscal respomsibility! The GOP wants to so burden the federal govenment with debt, unfunded GOP wars and mandates that there is no room for anything else in any future budgets and thus the GOP will "starve the beast" of non-defense discretionary spending.

    Then, the GOP will pursue to destroy Social Security, Medicare and complete the destructionm of the Middle Class in America such that we will truly be a society of the rich, for the rich and by the rich. The rest of us will be serfs, to life or die at the whim of the plutocratic oligarchy that rules America.

    So, Karl, if you already are in the top 5% of wealth in America, you're set. If not, voting for any Republican anywhere any time will just simply be screwing yourself and your family for all its future generations!

  10. Jim Razinha says:

    Karl is right, but it would take a couple of OMBs and CBOs to figure out all the nuances. My barebones analysis was pulling broad numbers from the OMB reports and mapping over the administrations and Congresses. It's too hard to dig down into the lines to see what was shifted, increased/decreased, added. Yes, Congress authorizes the budget, but the Executive drafts the framework.

    We'll never get a balanced budget amendment because of those earmarks. While each party rails against the other when in the minority, they don't want to lose the power when they become the majority.

    While I'm on a Bush kick, the Reichwingers are always harping on Dem military cuts ("Clinton *decimated* the military…") but the reality is that GHWB did the decimating and Clinton had to restore it. Otherwise GWB wouldn't have "won" in Iraq – I've been around the military in one way or another for the largest part of my life (dependent, active duty, civilian service until three years ago) … they don't move that fast. Bush 2's first term military was Clinton's, as Clinton's first term was Bush 1's. Reagan's first year massive tax cuts while ballooning the military (I remember a vision of a 600 ship Navy) spells disaster intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. Unless that observer is Laffer and voodoo economics.

  11. Tim Hogan says:

    Karl and Jim, the notes and parts of the articles cited address directly the issue of whether there were any Congressional over-spending in the Reagan Years (not!).

    After Reagan, with Clinton we saw decreasing deficts as indicated in the charts and the reality of Clinton's willingness to shut down government if he didn't get what he wanted on the budget.

    Then we had the Lost Decade of the GOP dominated House, Senate and White House where the deficit situation went to all hell because there was ZERO fiscal discipline among the Republicans who went on a drunken sailor tax cut and spending binge. The recent Obama budget has already been addressed.

    These are the facts, whole facts and nothing but the facts. You may choose to ignore reality and independently observable and verifiable phenomena in favor of mythical beings called "fiscally conservative Republicans" but, reality sure must bite for you guys! There are no such animals as "fiscally conservative Republicans!" And what with the GOP wanting to extend the Bush tax breaks for the ultra-rich to the tune of $731 BILLION and adding another 5.4% to the overall national debt, I rest my case.

    Oh, and at least 69% of the voters oppose the GOP extending the $731 BILLION in breaks for the ultra-rich!


  12. Jim Razinha says:

    Tim – I'm confused…how does anything I posted imply I subscribe to the myth of fiscally conservative Republicans? I am pretty sure I am NOT ignoring reality. Quite the contrary, as I more or less said in my first post, I was trying to do a little budget analysis for some folks who long for the "good ole days" of Reagan to help them see that their memories are mistaken. (Newt doesn't read anything I have to say, more's the pity.)

    Others have done it and probably better (I have yet to read Will Bunch's book), but I wanted to have a few facts of my own in the toolbox to dispel the myths the Reagan Legacy Project and anybody else who wants his picture on our money or on Rushmore or wherever. For the record, I would rank Reagan 11th among the 12 Presidents of the last 60 years. I think you can guess who I think is #12. His father beat him by two.

    {I'd caution against buying into the myth of fiscally conservative Democrats as well…career Washington pols are quite good at piling on; look at Byrd's earmarks. But, I do think as a whole, the Elephants are better at spending and even better at marketing/spinning that they don't. It's easy when you have your own network. Anyway, no one who gets elected knows how to right-size the government.}

  13. Tim Hogan says:

    Mea culpa, James, it appeared to me that you did subscribe to the myth of GOP fiscal consrvatism. What I wished to critically analyze was whether the GOP was making false claims to austerity, which is clearly the case.

  14. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I often tell people that to me it seems that the Democrats prefer to pay with cash while the Republicans pay with a credit card.

    I've also noticed a bit of confusion concerning deficit and debt.

    The national debt is the money that the government has borrowed. This is money borrowed from the private sector.

    Deficit usually refers to a Budget deficit. This is when the estimated expenses for a budget period exceed the projected revenues for the same period.

    Deficit may also refer to a trade deficit, which occurs when the value of imports is greater than the value of exports.

    We also here of deficit spending. The is when the government borrows money to finance a budget deficit.

    The national debt is a serious problem. Deficit spending increases the debt.

  15. Tim Hogan says:

    The facts are in, the US Chamber of Commmerce is buying this election for the Republicans!

  16. Tim Hogan says:

    Another damning analysis of the Republicans as the reason there is any “debt crisis.”

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