The Republican Destruction of Americaby Kenneth J. Kahn
RepublicansIn the preface to Doris Kearns Goodwin's fine biography of Teddy Roosevelt, The Bully Pulpit, she summed up the accomplishments of his presidency:"A series of anti-trust suits had been won and legislation passed to regulate railroads, strengthen labor rights, curb political corruption, end corporate campaign contributions, impose limits on the working day, protect consumers from unsafe food and drugs, and conserve vast swaths of natural resources for the American people."Today's Republicans oppose every bit of Teddy Roosevelt's progressive agenda.
Peace and Prosperity
When Bill Clinton became President of the United States in 1993, there had not been a federal budget surplus since 1969. During the twelve years under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W., the national debt almost quadrupled; from less than $1 trillion to almost $4 trillion - the largest increase in American history to that time. 1
Certainly part of that unprecedented increase in the national debt was due to the Reagan tax cuts. When Clinton became president, he signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, also known as the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993. It created top marginal income tax rates for individuals of 36% and 39.6%, and a 35% income tax rate for corporations. Republicans in Congress predicted dire consequences. These are just a few of their predictions over a six month period, as recorded in the Congressional Record:
"I believe that that will in fact kill the current recovery and put us back in a recession. It might take 1 and a half or 2 years, but it will happen." - Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) 2
"The problem in not that we do not tax enough, it is that Government spends too much. The President has reverted to true form, that of a tax and spend, old-time Democrat. He has abandoned tens of millions of middle-class voters that trusted him. Raising taxes on the middle class is not patriotic, it is idiotic." - Representative John Boehner (R-OH) 3
"Mr. Speaker, I hear, once again, like 1989, claims that by increasing taxes we will be able to shrink the deficit and fund new programs. But as history has shown us over and over, the only result of more taxes is more spending and bigger Government. Let us cut spending, not raise taxes." - Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) 4
"President Clinton has been trying to sell his plan to the American people by claiming that it will create both tax fairness and economic growth. However, history proves that the tax increases which the President advocates will actually stifle economic expansion and the creation of jobs." - Representative Phil Crane (R-IL) 5
"I would much rather be here today supporting the President and I would do so if his proposals could expect to increase jobs and the standard of living for Americans, but I believe his massive tax increases will do just the opposite." - Representative Bill Archer (R-TX) 6
"This is really the Dr. Kevorkian plan for our economy. It will kill jobs, kill businesses, and yes, kill even the higher tax revenues that these suicidal tax increasers hope to gain." - Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA) 7
"Just when the economy is emerging from a recession caused in part by high taxes the President proposes to slam the brakes on the recovery with his tax bill. This tax package will reduce productivity and consumption, which will slow down a gradually recovering economy and cause another recession." - Representative William Baker (R-CA) 8
"Small businesses generate the bulk of this Nation's new jobs. And they will be the hardest hit by the Clinton tax-and-spend budget. Because, when you raise taxes, you kill jobs . When you raise taxes, consumer prices inevitably rise, demand falls off, and small businesses begin to collapse." - Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) 9
"I spoke with the chief financial officer of Owosso, George Lemmon, Jr., and he told me: 'These taxes will mean that we will take fewer risks, we will make fewer investments, and we will have less working capital.' What does that mean? It means lower economic growth and fewer jobs." - Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) 10
"This package contains the largest tax increase in history, and promises deficit reduction. This package will not reduce the Federal debt, or even balance one annual budget for that matter." - Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 11
"Mr. President, taxpayers will adjust to these new taxes by shifting investments into ones that generate fewer taxes by working less and by taking fewer risks. The consequences will punish far more than just the wealthy. Economic growth will slow and fewer jobs will be created." - Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 12
"Mr. President, I really do not think it takes a rocket scientist to know this bill will cost jobs." - Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) 13
"This tax bill will not get the deficit down. What it will do is it will give him a lot of new money to spend. We will pass a National Service Program tonight. It is going to cost billions of dollars. There is no deficit reduction in this bill." - Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) 14
Not a single Republican in congress voted for the bill. Let's look at some of what actually happened during the Clinton administration: 15
- The 1993 Deficit Reduction Plan, which raised income tax rates to pre-Reagan levels, was passed without a single Republican vote.
- Federal income taxes as a percentage of income for the typical American family dropped to their lowest level in 35 years.
- Economic growth averaged 4.0 percent per year, compared to average growth of 2.8 percent during the Reagan-Bush years.
- The Clinton years were a period of unprecedented innovation, including the founding and spectacular success of such companies as Google, eBay, and Amazon.com.
- More than 22.5 million created jobs in less than eight years - the most ever created under a single administration. Of the total new jobs, 92 percent, were in the private sector.
- Median family income up $6,000 since 1993.
- Lowest unemployment rate in more than 30 years, down from 6.9 percent in 1993 to 4.0 percent in November 2000.
- Lowest inflation since the 1960s, averaging 2.5 percent, down from 4.7 percent during the previous administration.
- Highest homeownership rate on record, reaching 67.7 percent in the third quarter of 2000.
- 7 million fewer Americans living in poverty.
- Lowest teen birth rate in 60 years.
- Lowest infant mortality rate in American history.
- Lowest crime rate in 26 years.
Finally, with the Clinton tax increases, the deficit was reduced and Clinton actually left office after three straight years of budget surpluses. 16
It's bad enough that the Republicans were so wrong in 1993. They were equally wrong during the presidency of George W. Bush and they are still wrong, stubbornly continuing to insist that the country follow their policies that caused so much damage.
George W. Bush and the Destruction of the Economy 17
In 2001, George W. Bush brought his blind faith in failed Republican supply-side economics to the White House. His tax cuts and negligence regarding financial-industry malfeasance resulted in seven straight years of budget deficits. During the six years of his Presidency when Republicans controlled all three branches of the federal government, Bush did not veto a single spending bill. These are some of the consequences of the policies of George W. Bush and his Republican allies in congress:
Five biggest deficits in American history 18
"Foreign-owned government debt more than doubled" 19
Worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover 20
More than $4 trillion dollars added to the national debt. 21 When Bush left office, the national debt was more than $10 trillion. 22 The projected budget deficit for fiscal year 2009 was more than $1 trillion. 23
The Real Median Household Income fell, the first time in recent history. 24
"Under Clinton, the median income increased 14 per cent. Under George W. Bush it declined 4.2 per cent." 25
"Under Clinton the total number of Americans in poverty declined 16.9 per cent; under George W. Bush it increased 26.1 per cent." 26
"Under Clinton the number of children in poverty declined 24.2 per cent; under George W. Bush it increased by 21.4 per cent." 27
"Under Clinton, the number of Americans without health insurance [was] down six-tenths of one per cent; under George W. Bush it increased by 20.6 per cent." 28
By the summer of 2008, the economy was collapsing. The housing and auto industries were in peril. Republicans, including their presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, just didn't get it. McCain's chief financial advisor was former Senator Phil Gramm. Gramm was one of the strongest proponents of bank deregulation, a policy that turned out to have predictably disastrous consequences. 29 He had also been instrumental in passing legislation beneficial to Enron, a company which had rewarded him and his wife handsomely. 30 During the summer of 2008, he was a Vice-President of UBS, a Swiss bank, one of those that caused the mortgage crisis. Gramm told the Washington Times that we were in a "mental recession." 31 He certainly was. On Aug. 20th, McCain said, "I still believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong." 32 In September, he said it again. 33 In addition, the Department of Justice discovered that UBS was engaged in business practices designed to "justify evading its reporting obligations and helped United States taxpayers to continue to conceal their identities and assets from the IRS." 34 On Feb. 18, 2009, the Department of Justice announced, "As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, UBS has further agreed to pay $780 million in fines, penalties, interest and restitution." 35 The advice that Phil Gramm gave McCain was bought and paid for by UBS.
A Republican Crime Against America 36
On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. That night, fifteen prominent Republicans met for dinner at the Caucus Room, an upscale restaurant in Washington, D.C. Among the participants were House members Eric Cantor, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, Dan Lungren, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, and former House member Newt Gingrich. Also participating were Senators Tom Coburn, Bob Corker, Jim DeMint, John Ensign and Jon Kyl. The dinner was organized by Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist, to devise a strategy to destroy the Obama presidency. By doing so, the Republicans hoped to regain control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and regain the White House in 2012. In Do Not Ask What Good We Do, author Robert Draper described the Republicans' plan:Show united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama's economic stimulus plan.)
Vice President Joe Biden told Draper that during the transition, "seven different Republican Senators" told him that "McConnell had demanded unified resistance." "The way it was characterized to me was: 'For the next two years, we can't let you succeed in anything. That's our ticket to coming back.'" This was after the 2008 election but even before Obama and Biden took office.
By 2010, Republicans were openly talking about making Obama a one-term president; not even attempting to hide their malicious plan. Their malfeasance is plain in their record of obstructing executive appointments. That record was summarized in a the lead editorial in The New York Times, June 15, 2013: 37
From the Eisenhower to the Ford administrations, there were no filibusters of executive nominees. Over the next 32 years, there were 20.
But since President Obama took office, there have been an unprecedented 16, including one for the secretary of defense, a first, and a new low. Determined to erect stumbling blocks at every step, Republicans have delayed cabinet secretaries and agency leaders for months, hectoring them with hundreds of questions and imposing holds for reasons having nothing to do with fitness for office. The Treasury secretary, Jack Lew, had to answer 444 written questions, more than the previous seven nominees for that position combined. Gina McCarthy, nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, was given more than 1,000 questions and has been blocked by a Republican senator for more than four months, the longest delay in the agency's history.
Thomas Perez, the nominee for labor secretary, has been delayed for 120 days. And already several senators are planning to give a hard time to anyone Mr. Obama nominates to lead the Homeland Security Department.
The most brazen example has been the effort to destroy two legally created agencies that Republicans dislike: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. Republicans have, for years, refused to confirm Mr. Obama's nominees for board members or the bureau's director, knowing that neither agency can properly operate without permanent leaders.
It's bad enough that the Republicans destroyed the economy through their stupidity and irresponsibility. Their conspiracy to prevent President Obama from doing anything to repair the damage they caused is criminal; equivalent to an arsonist who starts a fire and then shoots the firemen who try to extinguish it. The Republicans' actions constitute the worst crime ever committed against America by Americans. They damaged the lives of at least tens of millions of Americans and they are trying to keep their victims suffering for the sake of their political ambitions. They are morally defective; beneath contempt.
1 "Historical Debt Outstanding - Annual 1950 - 1999", TreasuryDirect (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
2 The Congressional Record, February 2nd, 1993
3 The Congressional Record, February 17th, 1993
4 The Congressional Record, March 16, 1993
6 The Congressional Record, May 24th, 1993
7 The Congressional Record, May 27th, 1993
8 The Congressional Record, June 9th, 1993
9 The Congressional Record, July 13th, 1993
10 The Congressional Record, July 15th, 1993
11 The Congressional Record, August 6th, 1993
15 The Clinton-Gore Administration - A Record of Progress
16 Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
17 Kahn Kenneth J. "The American Economy," 2012
18 House Committee on the Budget
21 Congressional Budget Office
22 Historical Debt Outstanding - Annual 2000 - 2012, TreasuryDirect (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
23 The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2009 to 2019, Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
24 Joint Economic Committee of the Congress
25 Brownstein, Ronald. "Closing the Book on the Bush Legacy," The Atlantic, September 11, 2009
29 Kahn, Kenneth J. Deregulation
30 Kahn, Kenneth J. Deregulation (Enron)
31 "This is a mental recession," Washington Times, July 9, 2008
32 "I still believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong." thinkprogress.org, August 20, 2008
33 "the fundamentals" of the American economy are strong," CBS News, September 15, 2008
34 U.S. Department of Justice
35 U.S. Department of Justice
36 Draper, Robert. Do Not Ask What Good We Do. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012
37 "A Step to Majority Rule in the Senate," The New York Times, July 15, 2013
During my late-night research, I might have copied text from another author and inadvertently forgotten to give credit. Please let me know if you find instances of such negligence and I will correct it promptly. I welcome all corrections of facts, spellings, grammar and broken links.