(By Fay Paxton, cross-posted at The Pragmatic Pundit)
After saying President Barack Obama does not care about the private sector, Mitt Romney insisted, “…..He [Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers…. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” Is it me? What are firemen, policemen and teachers? Aliens?
After President Obama remarked that “the private sector is doing fine”, Romney, the media and pundits pounded the president for what was described as a remark that proved “he is out of touch”. Republicans once again touted the success of President Reagan at turning around the recession during his presidency and his “small government” ideology. Reagan! It’s always about Reagan!
There is no debate that during Reagan’s tenure unemployment reached a high of 10.8% in his first term, and by the time he ran for his second term it had been reduced by more than 3 points. But how did he do it? One way was by expanding the federal workforce.
Despite claims to the contrary, historically, Democratic presidents reduce the size of the federal government workforce and Republicans expand it. The federal employment numbers, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the department charged with tracking the number of employees, the data shows the following:
Today, we have fewer nonmilitary employees under President Obama than we had 30 years ago. The truth is, Reagan, the small government guru expanded government more than any modern-day President. His was the largest non-military workforce in three decades. In fact, the only president who had a workforce that surpassed Reagan’s was President Johnson’s. Of course, Johnson presided over the nation during the Vietnam War, while Reagan was in office during peacetime.
If we combine the totals for all federal employees, including the military:
Reagan began office with a total of 4,982,000 employees and ended his term with 5,292,000 employees. While President Obama took office with a federal employee roster of 4,430,000 employees. At the end of 2010 President Obama’s federal workforce numbered 4,443,000; that’s 849,000 fewer employees than Reagan, the advocate of small government!
Add to this the fact that President Reagan governed during peacetime, while President Obama inherited two wars.
And like now, the share of total income that went to the highest-income households grew, while the share of total income of the lowest-income households fell. The number of Americans below the poverty level increased from 29.3 million when he took office to 31.3 million in 1988 and for the first time since the Great Depression, homelessness became a visible problem.
After the 2010 elections, the eleven states that went red and Texas were responsible for 70 percent of public sector job losses. Clearly, the losses were the result of deliberate decisions, because even in the face of tight budget constraints, many of these states cut taxes for corporations and top earners. It was part of a new agenda that came in with GOP/Tea Party legislators. More importantly, states would not have found themselves in such a budgetary straightjacket had Republicans not insisted on trading $40 billion in state stabilization for tax cuts in order to support the Stimulus.
Spending to Stimulate the Economy
Ronald Reagan’s faithful followers claim he has used his skills as the Great Communicator to inaugurate a new era of liberty and free markets. Reagan himself said, “It is time to check and reverse the growth of government.”
Here’s how the Reagan administration performed:
* The budget for the Department of Education, which candidate Reagan promised to abolish along with the Department of Energy, more than doubled.
* Social Security spending rose from $179 billion in 1981 to $269 billion in 1986.
* The price of farm programs went from $21.4 billion in 1981 to $51.4 billion in 1987, a 140% increase; this doesn’t count his $4 billion “drought-relief” measure.
* Medicare spending in 1981 was $43.5 billion; in 1987 it hit $80 billion.
* Federal entitlements cost $197.1 billion in 1981 and $477 billion in 1987.
Reagan tripled the Gross Federal Debt, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion. It took 31 years to accomplish the first postwar debt tripling, yet Reagan did it in eight.
To be honest, the real problem is those who idolize an “imaginary” Reagan and insist on a portrayal that barely existed; focusing on what he believed and said rather than what he actually did. They do so, not just for the Reagan legacy, but to enhance political leverage. The sadness is that honesty about his true performance need not diminish his memory. And that’s my issue more than anything else. Like with absolutely everything….Republicans lie!
An accurate depiction of Reagan would portray a president, whether out of wisdom or acquiescence, grew the size of government, bailed-out Social Security and Banks and raised the debt limit 17 times. Yet, when he realized the huge tax-cuts he had promoted were harmful to the economy, he reversed himself and in the end, expressed regret that he had turned the country from a creditor nation to a debtor nation. He knew how to compromise. The Conservatives actually learned nothing from Reagan.