One of the predictable aspects of any Republican campaign is their promise to bring fiscal responsibility to government, rein in federal spending, slash debt and deficits, and foster an economic boom unseen in human history by giving the rich greater tax cuts. By now only a person who has been comatose for the past thirty-five years is unaware that fiscal responsibility is contrary to any Republican’s economic agenda. An agenda that entails higher spending, greater debt, and fewer services for the people under the guise of budgetary constraint. Those policies are not and have never been fiscally responsible; they are fiscally conservative and unique to every Republican administrations’ economic failure.
If Americans need an example of true fiscal responsibility, they can look at the state of the economy under a fiscally responsible Democrat, President Barack Obama. It was mentioned slightly earlier this month, but worth noting again; the Treasury Department reported “a shrinking federal deficit” of $439 billion for fiscal year 2015. Those numbers are not only the lowest since 2007, they are lower than predicted earlier this year. In fact, the Treasury Department also reported that in the final month of fiscal 2015 the “federal government ran a budget surplus.”
However, it is not just that the actual dollar amount is the lowest since before the Republican-created Great Recession and economic catastrophe. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “the Federal deficit is now lower than the average going back to 1965” when it is measured, as it typically is, as a portion of the size of the nation’s entire economy.
When measured as a percentage of the overall economy, for fiscal 2015 the federal deficit was 2.5 percent of GDP; the historical 50-year average stands at 2.7 percent. That figure is more than noteworthy, but particularly so because every Republican, deficit hawk, and conservative economist claims that President Obama is like every Democrat; “an out-of-control spending machine” driving the nation into catastrophic and unsustainable debt. What Republicans will never say is that when it comes to fiscal responsibility, Barack Obama is setting the standard Republicans could never achieve.
The falling budget deficit is all the more impressive because when Barack Obama entered the White House, George W. Bush left him a $1.3 trillion budget deficit for fiscal year 2009. That number represented 10 percent of the nation’s GDP revealing that President Obama’s “turnaround” is over seven points. Real fiscal responsibility is cutting a huge deficit by over three-quarters within six years. All while saving the nation’s economy from certain catastrophe, paying for George W. Bush’s two unfunded wars and tax cuts for the rich, creating millions upon millions of jobs, and enacting health care insurance reform for millions of Americans.
The last fiscally responsible president, Bill Clinton, had a very typical and respectable Democratic “turnaround” after Republican debt creation, but as remarkable as it was, President Obama’s is better. Bill Clinton inherited another Republican’s budget deficit that was “roughly 4 percent of GDP” that he turned into a 2 percent of GDP surplus in eight years. But President Obama can boast a 7 point turnaround in six years while suffering through four years of an extremely hostile Congress and six years of Republican malfeasance designed to destroy any chance of economic recovery.
Americans have witnessed for themselves exactly what happens under Republicans’ vaunted “fiscal responsibility” at the federal level during the last Republican administration; the rich got monumental tax cuts, debt and deficits exploded, government spending ballooned, and services were slashed. If Americans are too memory-challenged to harken back to the Bush era’s Great Recession and $1.3 trillion budget deficit as a parting gift, they can look at the current effects of fiscally-responsible Republican governors and legislatures in states such as Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Wisconsin to get a real-time demonstration of how badly Republicans fail at being fiscally responsible. If Americans want to see a real-time example of what Democratic fiscal responsibility looks like and they refuse to see President Obama’s success at the federal level, they should look no farther than California.
Under successive Republican administrations and legislatures all promoting their economic agenda and policies as epitomizing “fiscal conservatism and responsibility,” California fell so deeply in debt its credit was considered “junk” and Republicans borrowed the state into near-bankruptcy. All the while, none of the borrowed money went to the people in the form of government programs because it barely covered the tax cuts for the wealthy. Today, after a Democratic governor and legislature brought real fiscal responsibility to bear on Republican economic insanity, the state is thriving with a budget surplus, the Republicans’ debt are being erased, and the people’s services are being restored.
After hearing Republican presidential candidates continually boast that only a Republican can reduce debt and deficits by being fiscally responsible, it was refreshing to see the Treasury’s report that no administration, especially no Republican administration, has been more fiscally disciplined or responsible over the past 50 years than President Obama. Republicans definitely need a lesson in what it means to truly be fiscally responsible, but until they abandon their “precious fiscal conservatism” gospel that entails out-of-control spending and increasing budget deficits, they will just have to dream of being as fiscally responsible as Barack Obama; a point the mainstream media will never report.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.