The Lie: Republicans have a plan to balance the federal budget and care deeply about fiscal responsibility.
The Truth: The last Republican president who ever balanced the budget was Dwight Eisenhower.
Between 1998 and 2000, President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department paid off more than $360 billion in debt. As a result of 115 straight months of economic expansion that began after an increase in the top income tax rate — which was virulently opposed by the right — the huge deficits left by 12 years of Republican rule had been transformed into a surplus.
Within months after taking office in the narrowest victory of nearly any U.S. president—by only one vote in the Supreme Court—George W. Bush had begun to turn that surplus back into deficits that grew and grew, despite funding two wars on emergency supplemental bills that were not figured into the budget.
Vice-President Cheney laughed off the promises that the Bush tax breaks would pay for themselves and the budget would be balanced: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” But deficits do matter to Republicans…whenever there is a Democratic president.
Since they woke up from a coma on the day President Obama was elected, Republicans have pushed two Big Lies: The President is responsible for the deficit, which is nearly entirely the result of Bush-era choices that the Republicans refused to abandon, and the deficit is responsible for the poor economy.
In both instances, the opposite is true.
Using the deficit as a battering ram, the GOP pushed for the rapid adoption of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which would ignore the true causes of the deficit—tax breaks, the wars and an unfunded Medicare expansion—and demand huge cuts to Medicaid, Pell Grants and every service the government provides.
Paul Ryan proposed a budget plan with these draconian measures yet impartial experts warn that his budget doesn’t balance for decades. The largest expenditure in the Ryan budget is interest on the national debt.
Eager to prove how conservative he is, Mitt Romney signed up for a balanced budget plan that works even faster than Ryan’s, by cutting even more government services. And he pledges to do it without asking rich Americans like himself to ever pay a nickel more in taxes.
Like the majority of Republicans in Congress, Romney has signed a pledge to never say aye to any new taxes. Forget asking the rich to contribute what they can. Under Romney’s plan they’ll pay even less. Of course, to do this Romney would have to demand that the working poor and the middle class pay up to $2000 a year more to make the math work.
And when does Mitt Romney’s budget balance? Don’t ask Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie (who also advised George W. Bush). Yesterday Gillespie told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “ Uh…Wolf, I’m not sure of that myself, actually. I’ll get that to you though and I’m sure it’s on our website.” Don’t count on it.
Why? Romney purposely released a budget that can’t be scored, and thus makes no serious projections. No one can say he isn’t a Republican now!
Republicans have long abandoned any impulse to open a real discussion about the federal budget in hopes of distorting the debate. They’re attacking cuts that eliminate wasteful spending in Medicare, while proposing trillions in cuts that would do real damage. They’re blaming deficit spending for a bad economy that only deficit spending can help us to escape. They’re promising to balance the budget with Paul Ryan’s smile and the magic of trickle-down economics.
And how did that work out last time?
Photo: AP Photo via Mary Altaffer