The Republican’s Debt and Deficit Blackmail

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
GOP blackmail

(By The Pragmatic Pundit)

Republicans have been using debt and deficit blackmail as a bargaining strategy since the days of Ronald Reagan.Reagan’s brand of politics was successful at promoting the notion that federal government spending on social programs is mostly wasted on pointless handouts to lazy recipients. He carefully cultivated the impression that “government spending” meant “free money” for people who were nothing more than moochers.  Sound familiar?

Ronald Reagan was swept into office on the same Republican fearmongering-propaganda that grips the country today…”spending is out of control, the country is going bankrupt and government is too big.”

There is no denying Reagan inherited an economy that was in a deep recession, but his response to the debt crisis was far different than Republicans would have us believe.

Despite his “small government” rhetoric, Reagan expanded the federal government by 7%, employing a larger federal workforce (those greedy public employees) than any President in history other than Johnson who presided over the Vietnam War.

He did enact a huge tax cut, but then raised taxes eleven times; increased defense spending; ballooned the federal deficit to the largest peacetime deficit in history; raised the debt ceiling 17 times and accumulated a debt burden that equaled the previous 200 years of American history, turning the United States from a creditor nation into a debtor nation.  For the first time in the history of the nation, the United States borrowed in order to cover federal budget deficits.

David Stockman, Reagan’s economic wizard and the architect of the trickle-down budgets wrote:

“The Reagan deficits were intentional, designed to cut revenue as a way of pressuring Congress to cut programs Republicans wanted to destroy….The plan… was to have a strategic deficit that would give you an argument for cutting back the programs that weren’t desired….”

The “small government” mantra and “debt and deficit” narrative continued after Reagan left office and another Republican, Bush (41)  took the helm.

Daily News 1990:  Legislators Say There’s No Money.

During the tenure of these two Republicans, deregulation and imprudent real estate lending contributed to a Savings and Loan crisis and quite possibly the stock market crash.  Between 1980 and 1994, more than 1600 banks were closed or received financial assistance from the FDIC.  Over 1,000 banks with total assets of over $500 billion failed.  The number of savings and loans declined from 3,234 to 1,645.Taxpayers assumed the bill for a $124 billion bailout, while corporate scandals and bankruptcies made matters worse. Enron represented the biggest corporate scandal in history, while Worldcom MCI filed the largest bankruptcy in history.

That was the economy Republicans left for Bill Clinton and they were singing the same song: “spending is out of control and the country is going bankrupt.”  
CNN – 1995
Americans blame GOP for budget mess

Buffalo News 1995

Then as now, Republicans focused solely on cutting the social safety net and entitlement programs.  Remember welfare reform?  Republicans take credit for Clinton’s 1993 deficit-cutting package, but the truth is the balanced budget passed without a single GOP vote in either house of Congress.   By the time Clinton left office, there was a surplus.Bush/Cheney inherited the Clinton budget surplus and immediately began turning it into a deficit.

Despite their opposition to entitlements, Republicans passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 expanding the program (can’t privatize it, figure other ways for private corporations to extract money from the program).  After being debated and negotiated for several months, the bill finally came to a vote  on a November morning at 3 am while America slept.  Among other things, the bill prohibits the federal government from negotiating discounts with drug companies.  Read the curious legislative history.

Bush launched wars with Iraq and Afghanistan and introduced tax-cuts that primarily benefited the rich.  None of these expenditures were offset and they all were kept off the books, giving the illusion that the country was in a much stronger fiscal position than it was.  Republicans admit under Bush they  “spent like drunken sailors”,   but when the spending was taking place, not a single Republican rebelled.  Remember, running up debt and deficits is a strategy.  
Six weeks before President Obama was sworn in, the economy collapsed and the Republicans began their familiar chant…“spending is out of control and the country is going bankrupt.” 
Newly installed Governors cut the federal workforce; remember, Reagan ( the man Republicans credit with economic problem-solving) increased the federal workforce to one of the largest in history.  They cut employee pay and pensions, while they delivered more tax cuts to the wealthy.  They busted unions, destroying employees last firewall between workers and employers.  All of these acts redistribute the treasury from the middle class and working poor to the wealthy.

It isn’t ideology that drives the Republican insistence on spending cuts, it’s a strategy.  Think about it…the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House for four consecutive years.  They could have fixed Medicare and Social Security, but for some reason, there’s never a problem unless a Democrat is in the White House.Listen to how fervently they defend cuts to defense.  Why?  Afterall, defense workers are unionized public employees.  Because there isn’t a department that shifts more taxpayer money to the private sector than the Defense Department.  There is no other federal vehicle that allows the wealthy to extract more money from the treasury, convert more taxpayer revenue to the private sector than the Defense Department.

Throughout history, since 1783, tax cuts for the wealthy and increased defense spending and union busting have increased the gap between the revenues and the expenditures. Shareholders and those on Wall Street have enjoyed inflated returns, while the wages for workers have taken a beating.   It’s a 21st century Gilded Age.

In the final analysis, the real targets are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid; any program that supports the less fortunate.   Republicans have a long-standing, deeply-held  antipathy for both Social Security and Medicare. Not only did Reagan advocate that Social Security should be privatized, he was at the forefront of a coalition against Medicare with the same arguments we hear today.

How did the public ever buy the idea that Republicans are good stewards of the economy?   Studies have been done comparing every phase of economic growth, during Democratic and Republican presidencies and congresses, and they all show stunningly better performance when Democrats are in power.

The trickle down miracle never worked because lower taxes don’t generate more revenue, they generate deficits.  It is a fact that is so mathematically  basic, it borders on common sense.

More, More, More, Part III: Tax Cuts … for Some

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

This week I’ve been considering the curious conservative belief that the solution to many problems is more of the same problem. First, I looked at their view on mass shootings. Yesterday I examined the Wall Street crisis and financial regulation. Today I conclude with deficits and tax cuts.

Yelling about the debt …

If you watched the London Olympics Opening Ceremony last night, you may have learned a few things: Mary Poppins can chase Voldemort out of childrens’ dreams, Rowan Atkinson may get bored if asked to play music, and Queen Elizabeth II has enough spunk and good humor to join Daniel Craig in a James Bond-themed royal entry.

If you watched the ads, you also learned that the ‘New Majority Agenda’ are concerned about our national debt….

“Why isn’t the economy stronger? In the seconds it takes to watch this, our national debt will increase $1.4 million,” the narrator ominously intones. “He’s adding $4 billion in debt every day.”

Note: I’m not certain this is the same ad that ran last night, but it’s by the same group, looks the same, and is the most recent such ad about which I could find information.

Who are the ‘New Majority Agenda?’ That’s at the end of the ad, in the small print: Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS Super-PAC. Who are they? Apart from the usual “grassroots” claims, Karl Rove won’t say. He says the group should be exempt from FEC rules that require disclosure of political donations, claiming the Super-PAC is a “social welfare organization” that talks about issues rather than candidates. That claim is as laughable as the argument in the ad itself, which Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave two Pinocchios last month:

As with a previous Crossroad GPS ad, this ad exaggerates Obama’s impact on the rise of the debt, as it was not just spending, but a decline in revenue that is responsible for the sharp rise in federal budget deficits. Obama has proposed policies to help reduce the deficit – which Crossroads opposes. That’s their right, but it seems strange to suggest he has done nothing about it.

… and whispering about race.

Why claim President Obama has done nothing to reduce the deficit, when he offered a comprehensive deficit-reduction package that Republicans rejected last summer? Perhaps because the truth wouldn’t fit the emerging Republican narrative of President Obama working to undermine the U.S. as claimed in Dinesh D’Souza’s new ‘documentary’ film:

The film argues that this explains all of the actions of the current administration, from the frosty relations with Israel and outreach to Muslim world, to the refusal to intervene in Syria, to the resistance to offshore drilling and the running up of the national debt. Obama wants to knock America down a peg or two to put it in parity with the Third World. Indeed, the film concludes by arguing that Obama is running up the national debt in a deliberate effort to bankrupt the nation in the name of anti-colonialism.

As D’Souza told ABC News: “Obama wants to shrink America’s footprint in the world because he thinks we’ve been stepping on the world. And that is directly related to the ideology espoused by his father.”

Linking race and the federal budget is hardly new, as Sanford Schram, Joe Soss, and Richard Fording explained in their book Race and the Politics of Welfare Reform. Ronald Reagan’s mythical ‘welfare queen’ reinforced rather than created a conservative meme that we could easily balance our federal budget if we stopped giving money to Those People. D’Souza takes it to the next level, claiming that President Obama is intentionally running up the debt to weaken the United States … because his father was a black man from Kenya who hated the West.

More tax cuts … for some

President Obama’s ‘Grand Bargain’ proposal collapsed on the issue of tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, and D’Souza’s distorted racial lens helps clarify the two very different tax cut proposals considered by the Senate this week. Senate Democrats pushed and ultimately passed their plan to extend the 2001 tax cuts for incomes up to $250,000, as well as 2009 tax cuts that targeted working families. Senate Republicans had proposed a plan to extend all of the 2001 tax cuts – including tax cuts for incomes over $250,000 – but to eliminate most of the 2009 tax cuts for working families.

As polls show most Americans support tax increases for the wealthy, how did Republicans hope to sell their plan of more tax cuts for the rich and while raising taxes for working families? It helps if, like House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), you argue that it’s unfair for half of Americans to pay no income taxes. Never mind the fact that the working poor pay state sales taxes and other taxes and fees, or that the federal tax code is set up to exclude the working poor with programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit … a program that was created in the 1970s to subsidize low-income jobs.

It’s still unfair for those “lucky duckies” to skate by without paying taxes. Republicans are trying to paint the working poor as the new welfare queens … driving up the debt by soaking up entitlement programs while paying no taxes, protected by a president who wants to undermine America because his father was Kenyan. You don’t need canine hearing to translate that Republicans hope to sell tax increases for the working poor by telling white working class voters those tax increases will stop Those People from busting the budget … and sell tax cuts for the rich by talking about “job creators.”

When it comes to tax cuts, Republicans always want more, more, more … but only for some.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (


Remembering When Reagan Campaigned Against Medicare

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

 (By Fay Paxton, cross-posted at The Pragmatic Pundit)

“My name is Ronald Reagan. I have been asked to talk on the several subjects that have to do with the problems of the day. . . .

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. . . . Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it…..we are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program….the consequences for “our children” would be dire: “we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.”

And what was this frightful threat that Reagan perceived as “imminent”?  Medicare.

It was the Truman Administration that began advocating medical care for the aged after a call for universal health care for all Americans was met with intense opposition.  After a bill was introduced in Congress to create a Medicare program, the AMA immediately announced its opposition and worked tirelessly and successfully to prevent any such program from advancing in the Congress.

By 1960 a scaled-back bill was introduced in an effort to lessen resistance to the idea of government-provided health insurance coverage.  It proposed to cover the costs of hospital and nursing home care, but not surgical costs or out-patient physicians’ services.  The scaled-back version,  “limited to the welfare population” became law. It is what we now call Medicaid.

With the election of President Kennedy came a renewed effort to introduce Medicare.  The American Medical Association launched an extensive and well financed campaign against its enactment, with advertisements in newspapers. on radio and television spots, all deploying the usual cries of “socialism,” and the specter of federal bureaucrats in “the examination room.”

Under the banner of “Operation Hometown” the AMA propagandize through use of medical societies, speeches, news releases, articles and pamphlets on the dangers of “socialized medicine.”  Then there was “Operation Coffeecup”, a series of coffee-klatches hosted by the members of the Woman’s Auxiliary. The get-togethers were depicted as spontaneous, grassroot events.  Enter, Ronald Reagan.

At these clandestine gatherings, women received instructions on how to lobby against Medicare, launched a letter-writing campaign and listened to a recording called, “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine.”


Reagan’s involvement was revealed in an article by Drew Pearson in his Washington Merry-Go-Round column entitled,  “Star vs. JFK,”:

Ronald Reagan of Hollywood has pitted his mellifluous voice against President Kennedy in the battle for medical aid for the elderly. As a result it looks as if the old folks would lose out. He has caused such a deluge of mail to swamp Congress that Congressmen want to postpone action on the medical bill until 1962. What they don’t know, of course, is that Ron Reagan is behind the mail; also that the American Medical Association is paying for it.

Reagan is the handsome TV star for General Electric . . . Just how this background qualifies him as an expert on medical care for the elderly remains a mystery. Nevertheless, thanks to a deal with the AMA, and the acquiescence of General Electric, Ronald may be able to out-influence the President of the United States with Congress.

Reagan and Conservatives preferred a state-level welfare program for the needy. They were against pending legislation that offered health care coverage to Social Security beneficiaries, favoring legislation that paid the medical bills of those on welfare, or those who could qualify as indigent given their medical expenses.

What irony, that Conservatives were in favor of welfare, while Democrats preferred the pro-work expansion tied to Social Security.   Why this strange role reversal?  Because Conservatives reasoned that covering the truly needy would limit the size of the program and the stigma of  “poverty” would tamp down participation demands from middle class and upper class citizens.  Afterall, who would want an association with a program meant for the poor and aged?  It was a trade-off…a little more welfare for a lot less government.

While he would later deny it, Ronald Reagan was at the forefront of the argument against Medicare with many of the same arguments we hear today:

“The doctor begins to lose freedom. . . . First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then doctors aren’t equally di­vided geographically. So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him, you can’t live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else. And from here it’s only a short step to dictating where he will go. . . . From here it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay. And pretty soon your son won’t decide, when he’s in school, where he will go or what he will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.”

Government control of medicine was never what Medicare was about. It is a system for financing the costs of medical care that has nothing to do with medical practices. But then as now, this threat was the reliable boogeyman.

To be fair, the Medicare program does indirectly regulate aspects of health care by the  effect of its reimbursement policies. But the same is true with private insurers. Blue Cross/Blue Shield decides it will not pay for certain medical procedures, or will only pay for a generic drug rather than a brand-name one.  These decisions affect the practice of medicine by encouraging forms of practice consistent with reimbursement policies.  So too with Medicare. But this is a far cry from the specter of an intrusive government presence in the examining room.

Republicans have a long-standing, deeply-held  antipathy for both Social Security and Medicare. Not only did Reagan advocate making Social Security voluntary in the 1964 Goldwater campaign, but argued in 1975 that Social Security should be privatized.  And we’ve all heard those before; we still hear those arguments today.

By 1980, this aspect of Reagan’s personal history had become a political liability and he denied having ever campaigned to destroy Medicare, but insisted he was trying to improve it.  Perhaps, he was just acting.

All things considered, don’t be surprised if years from now, you see little old ladies donning hats with hanging teabags, carrying signs that proclaim:  “Keep government out of my Obamacare”.

10 Lies Republicans Tell, Over and Over and Over

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

(By Fay Paxton, cross-posted at The Pragmatic Pundit)

Lying and deception are the basis of Republican techniques including personal attacks, defamation, half-truths, name-calling or any other technique that is based on dishonesty or deception.   A simple slogan is repeated until it is taken as truth… “death panels” or asking “where are the jobs”, as if they themselves have no obligation to create employment policy.  Remember when Senator McCain railed about immigration, “the federal government has failed to protect this nation’s borders.”  He IS the federal government.

Republicans take elements of truth and false generalizations and merge them to supplant the accurate perception.  In other words…REPUBLICANS LIE!  Here are ten areas where Republican lying is rampant.

1. REPUBLICANS LIE about healthcare:

Republicans told too many lies about healthcare to repeat.  They convinced people that the new measures would boot them out of their private insurance into a government-run program; that it was really being established in order to give”reparations” to African Americans and to create ”death panels” for old people.

Republican States Attorney’s across the country have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the mandate,  a Republican idea, supported in the past by Sen. Grassley and Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Our brave young men and women died and we gave the Iraqis universal healthcare, so why is it too expensive for Americans?

2.  REPUBLICANS  LIE about the effects of regulations on business:

In their ninth annual Doing Business” report which ranks 183 countries and determines how “business-friendly” they are,  The World Bank ranked the United States number four in the “ease of doing business category“, while 65 percent of respondents  to a recent Wall Street Journal survey of economists, concluded that a lack of demand, not government policy, was the main impediment to increased hiring.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

McClatchy reached out to owners of small businesses to find out whether they indeed were being choked by regulations; whether uncertainty over taxes affected their hiring plans and whether the health care overhaul was helping or hurting their business.

None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it….”.  Many of the businesses pointed to how the Stimulus kept them afloat.

3.  REPUBLICANS LIE about the Stimulus

4.  REPUBLICANS LIE about drilling and the Keystone XL Pipeline:

Much to the chagrin of the “drill baby drill” crowd, the President has kept the oil industry out of ANWAR, and recently disallowed the XL-Pipeline.  To let Republicans tell it, the oil supply and employment in the industry have been stymied by this President.  It is a lie.

From The Los Angeles Times:

Oil imports down, domestic production highest since 2003

“…. the United States reduced net imports of crude oil last year by 10%, or 1 million barrels a day. The U.S. now imports 45% of its petroleum, down from 57% in 2008, and is on track to meet Obama’s long-term goal, the administration maintains.

Imports have fallen, in part, because the United States has increased domestic oil and gas production in recent years….Current production, about 5.6 million barrels a day, is the highest since 2003.

The U.S. has been the world’s largest producer of natural gas since 2009, the report says. Use of renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, is still relatively small but has doubled since 2008.

The report credits administration policies for the improvements. It cites initiatives such as the higher fuel efficiency of passenger cars, the jump in renewable energy output, and improved weatherization of 1 million homes.

Boehner has significant investments in the Keystone XL Pipeline Project  so he has actively promoted an agenda that will benefit him financially.  If the Republicans were really interested in job creation, they would have passed the infrastructure bill. Construction workers could repair roads and bridges from now until eternity, but then again, I guess Boehner’s not invested in I-95.

5.  REPUBLICANS LIE about taxes and tax cuts.

6.  REPUBLICANS LIE about the “war against women” and the contraceptive mandate:

According to Guttmacher,  2011 saw unprecedented attention to issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level. In all 50 states, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions.

At least twenty-two states have laws or regulations that resemble, at least in part, the Obama administration’s original rule.   In six states,  the contraceptive mandates were signed by GOP governors.

In 2000, Iowa became one of the first states to enact a contraceptive mandate. The Republican Legislature overwhelmingly backed the bill, which has NO EXEMPTION for religious employers.

In Arizona, a bipartisan coalition formed by pro-choice Republican state Rep. Linda Binder, promoted a bill, which exempted churches but not other church-affiliated institutions The bill cleared the Republican-controlled Legislature and then-Gov. Jane Hull, a Republican and a Catholic, signed the measure into law.

In New York, a similar law won GOP support in the Legislature and was signed in 2001 by Republican Gov. George E. Pataki.  Catholic groups sued and lost in the state’s highest court.

With help from Republican lawmakers, a law, which included two GOP cosponsors,  easily cleared Arkansas’  Legislature and then Governor Huckabee signed it in April 2005.  Now the former Arkansas governor accuses President Obama of “a direct violation of the 1st Amendment”.

In 2006, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed a healthcare overhaul that kept in place a contraceptive mandate signed by his Republican predecessor. Now he is calling President Obama’s rule an “assault on religion.”  He’s a liar too;  fit for his own chronology.

7.  REPUBLICANS LIE about voter fraud.

8.  REPUBLICANS LIE about job legislation they’ve proposed:

The so-called jobs bills that House leaders claim are being stalled by the Senate or nothing more than regulatory bills; none of which guarantee a single job will be created.  Unless, of course, you believe eliminating regulations on pesticides will create jobs.

If Republicans really cared about putting Americans to work, would it matter who wrote the bill?  Would it really matter if the work was for repairing roads and bridges or digging a pipeline?

From The Washington Post:

The GOP’s ludicrous claim about their jobs bill

Republicans  love to make claims about how many jobs their proposals will create. As a practical matter, readers should immediately discount such assertions, since they are often based on guesstimates that are then extrapolated beyond reality.

9.  REPUBLICANS LIE about the debt and deficit:

They love to say, President Obama controlled the Congress and got everything he wanted for the first two years of his term.  President Obama had a majority in the Senate for only 4 months, at the end of his first year.  Besides, what’s their excuse, Republicans had the House, Senate and Presidency (Bush) from 2001 to 2007….6 years!

10.  REPUBLICANS LIE  about Ronald Reagan

Reagan policies contributed to the Savings and Loan crisis

He increased the size of the federal government by 7%

The federal deficit ballooned to the largest peacetime deficit in history

Reagan was the largest borrower and spender in American history until George Bush

Under Reagan, the debt ceiling was raised 17 times

He was the first president in history to lower taxes for the rich while he raised them for the poor

He signed the largest tax increase in the history of the nation; He raised taxes 11 times

He created a debt burden that equaled the previous 200 years of American history

He campaigned against the enactment of Medicare

Reagan signed a measure to allow pregnant women to terminate pregnancies that endangered their “physical or mental health.” (Therapeutic Abortion Bill)

Reagan signed a bill that made immigrants who’d entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty.

He had the largest federal workforce in history.

I’m always prepared to listen to any fair and balanced arguments…no matter what party it is because everyone has a good idea sometimes. but I just can’t stomach the Republicans.  They’ve ceased being patriots and become, lying, bait-n-switch carnival barkers.  And they’re Stepford counterparts are a disgrace to womanhood.

Aren’t they the people who argue so vigorously for religious values?  Isn’t one of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not Lie”?  Yet, that’s all they do…is Lie!   But go ahead…vote for them and all of America will go straight to Hell with the Republicans.