Where have the Fiscally Responsible Republicans Gone?
To the Editor:
In the past, we were likely to see Democrats in Congress propose a program they felt would benefit our citizens. Republicans would not support any such plan until it included the taxes or other revenues needed to fully finance the proposal. When these two conditions were met, legislation was passed with wide bipartisan support. This produced popular programs like Social Security, the interstate highway system, Medicare and so on.
Since it was the Republicans who insisted we be fiscally responsible and generate the revenue required to cover the spending, I have supported Republican candidates in the past.
In 1980 all that changed. Ronald Reagan campaigned on a new economic philosophy. He would cut tax rates which would benefit most those with the highest incomes. These people would invest this money in new plant and equipment and hire many new workers. The country would prosper. With more people working and higher incomes all around, tax revenues would increase despite the lower rates, thus keeping the budget in balance.
Many were skeptical. George Bush called it "Voodoo Economics." Yet like millions of other Americans, I thought it was worth giving Reaganomics a try, so I voted for the Gipper.
Instead, this led to ever increasing budget deficits and an explosive increase in the national debt to over three trillion dollars. I was left wondering how my fiscally responsible Republicans could have let such a catastrophe happen.
As President, George Bush was faced with this economic nightmare. It was predicted that if nothing were done, by the end of his term the annual budget deficit would reach $380 billion. Much to his credit he took the required action to avert this disaster. Through a balanced approach of tax increases and spending cuts, he was able to reduce his final deficit to $280 billion. Yet, as Ross Perot pointed out during the 1992 campaign, this is still a staggering figure.
As President, Bill Clinton continued on this course toward fiscal responsibility. Like Bush he increased the tax rate on those who benefited most from the rate decreases in the 1980's. He made the hard choices required to cut spending by an even greater amount. As a result we are well on our way to cutting our $280 billion budget deficit in half. Yet, to my utter amazement, my fiscally responsible Republicans fought this effort every step of the way.
"Oh, how terrible," they say. "The biggest tax increase in U.S. history." The fact that the highest rate effects only about 1600 Americans whose annual incomes exceed one million dollars seems to upset them. When we consider that 71 percent of Republican campaign contributions come from the richest Americans, we might wonder just whose interests they really represent.
The fact that this legislation also increased the earned income credit, which allows 12 million low income workers with children to keep more of their earnings, goes largely unnoticed. Perhaps these Americans have little money left over to contribute to political candidates.
At least, I thought, Americans learned a hard lesson. How wrong I was!
Now we see Republican candidates on the steps of our Capital pledging that, if elected, they will repeat the very same mistakes that created this mess in the first place. Again they want us to believe that we can cut taxes on their rich benefactors, increase military spending, cut domestic programs (no details given) and somehow the budget will end up in balance. Sound familiar? No wonder some are calling this "Voodoo Two."
They expect voters to fall for the same economic fantasies that got Ronald Reagan elected. They want voters to punish our members of Congress who faced reality and voted for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Oh where, oh where have all the fiscally responsible Republicans gone? Not among our current state candidates, that's for sure.
For the sake of our country's economic viability we cannot let this cynical ploy succeed. We must not vote for candidates who present fantasy as reality and encourage us to act irresponsibly.
We cannot have a responsible federal government unless we as voters act responsibly. Let us vote for fiscal responsibility and realistic deficit reduction in the upcoming election.
Published October 27, 1994