FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Tax Cuts

by ROBERT FREEMAN

Insanity, said Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. By this measure, the latest Bush tax cuts qualify as certifiably insane.

Where have we seen this deranged fiscal strategy before? Remember Ronald Reagan and Supply Side Economics? In the early 1980s, Reagan promised the nation that if we lowered tax rates on the wealthy, the economy would grow so much the federal budget would be balanced “within three years, maybe even two.”

Sober people were skeptical-and rightly so. Reagan’s Republican opponent for the 1980 presidential election, George H.W. Bush called it “voodoo economics.” His own Budget Director, David Stockman, called it a “Trojan horse,” a scam intended really to funnel more money to the already rich. Stockman was quickly dismissed.

The results, we now know, were a disaster. In 1982, the first full year after the tax cuts were enacted, the economy actually shrank 2.2%, the worst performance since the Great Depression. And the effect on the federal budget was catastrophic.

Jimmy Carter’s last budget deficit was $77 billion. Reagan’s first deficit was $128 billion. His second deficit exploded to $208 billion. By the time the “Reagan Revolution” was over, George H.W. Bush was running an annual deficit of $290 billion per year.

Yearly deficits, of course, add up to national debt. When Reagan took office, the national debt stood at $994 billion. When Bush left office, it had reached $4.3 trillion. In other words, the national debt had taken 200 years to reach $1 trillion. Reagan’s Supply Side experiment quadrupled it in the next 12 years.

Is there anything to compare this to? When Bill Clinton took office he intentionally reversed the Supply Side formula, raising taxes on the wealthy and reducing them on the lowest wage earners. Supply Side true believers predicted the arrival of the Apocalypse. Bob Dole said the stock market would collapse. Newt Gingrich said the world would fall into another Great Depression.

What actually happened?

Between 1992 and 2000, the U.S. economy produced the longest sustained economic expansion in U.S. history. It created more than 18 million new jobs, the highest level of job creation ever recorded. Inflation fell to 2.5% per year compared to the 4.7% average over the prior 12 years.

Real interest rates fell by over 40% producing the greatest housing boom ever. Overall economic growth averaged 4.0% per year compared to 2.8% average growth over the 12 years of the Reagan/Bush administrations. Most impressively, Clinton reversed the mammoth deficits of the Supply Side years, turning them into surpluses. He used these surpluses to begin paying down the national debt.

By virtually every meaningful measure-employment, growth, inflation, interest rates, investment, deficits and debt-the economy performed better once the Supply Side experiment was terminated and replaced with a more honest economic policy where we actually pay our bills as we go.

This might all be ancient history if the spectre of Supply Side economics had not reared its ugly head again once Bush II took office. In selling his $1.6 trillion tax cut-half of which went to the wealthiest 1% of Americans-Bush promised in 2001 that it would produce 800,000 new jobs. In fact, the economy has lost 2.7 million jobs since Bush took office, again, the worst economic performance since the Great Depression.

The effects of Bush’s tax cut on the deficit and debt are exactly what we would expect having seen Reagan’s results-only worse. Bush inherited from Clinton a fiscal surplus of $127 billion. In his first year he turned that into a deficit of $158 billion. In this, his second year, he will run a deficit of over $400 billion-a swing to the worse of over $600 billion in only two years.

Now Bush has sold us on still another megadose of this same Supply Side voodoo. Two thirds of his new $350 billion tax cut will go to the top 10% of income earners. Bush’s Congressional ally, Tom DeLay, promises more such cuts for every year Bush is in office.

The long term effects of these policies are profoundly damaging. When Bush took office, the government’s ten year surplus was forecast to total $5.6 trillion. This was critical to building fiscal soundness as the Baby Boomers begin to retire.

Now, the ten year forecast projects a cumulative deficit of $1.1 trillion, a net loss of $6.7 trillion in only two years. With the exception of World Wars, this is the greatest, most rapid destruction of public wealth in the history of the world.

This is $6.7 trillion that is not available to pay for an entire generation’s retirement as we promised. It cannot rebuild the nation’s schools or retrain the technologically unemployed. It cannot shore up a foundering Medicare system or provide insurance to the more than 40 million Americans without it. The interest costs of funding this debt will soon approach half a trillion dollars a year and will retard investment and, therefore, economic growth for decades to come.

All this torrent of debt does-and we shouldn’t underestimate the prodigious potency of this feat-is line the pockets of Bush’s already gorged campaign contributors.

Rarely in public affairs do we have the luxury of such starkly clear, empirically proven, historically sound contrasts. If Bush’s tax cuts do not represent a fiscal process wildly out of control it is hard to imagine what does. And sadly, per Einstein’s insanity dictum, we’ve seen it all before.

Bush wants people to believe these losses are due to a recession he inherited from Bill Clinton. But the economy has grown for seven of the last eight quarters Bush has been in office, hardly a recessionary environment. In truth, the losses owe to a reckless economic philosophy, the failings of which have been conclusively, and now repeatedly, demonstrated.

We need to wake up from our patriotism-besotted, war-induced stupor. Losses and debts of this magnitude threaten our nation’s well being far more than do fictive weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a two bit, third world thug. Destroying our fiscal patrimony at the very moment we need it most-when history shows we should know better-is nothing short of national insanity.

ROBERT FREEMAN writes about economics, technology and education from Palo Alto, CA. He can be reached at: robertfreeman10@yahoo.com

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail