With the advent of a Democratic administration and the emergence of the Tea Party, conservatives have once again (this time with feeling!) re-discovered their interest in fiscal responsibility. Shocked to find
gambling deficit spending taking place within (and without, and everywhere in-between) the beltway, they have rededicated themselves to putting our fiscal house in order. Or have they?
We begin our tale in ancient times, back when inflation was a four-letter word and air-traffic controllers still had jobs. And let you be the judge.
In 1980, the Republican party platform attacked the profligate spending of the Carter administration and vowed to stop it:
The Republican Party believes balancing the budget is essential... We believe that an essential aspect of balancing the budget is spending restraint by the federal government...
Decrease in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 1977-1981: -3.2%
Increase in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 1981-1985: +11.3%
Fool me once.
In 1984, the Republican party again committed itself to eliminating the deficit, this time in an era of economic prosperity:
The Republican Party believes the federal budget must be balanced. We are committed to eliminating deficits and the excessive spending that causes them.
Increase in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 1985-1989: +9.2%
Fool me twice.
In 1988, the Republican party tried again, issuing itself a sternly worded letter, putting itself on notice that it would not be content until a balanced budget was achieved:
We will not be content until government establishes a balanced budget... It's time to push through the Republican agenda for budget reform to teach the Congress the kind of financial responsibility that characterizes the American family...
Increase in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 1989-1993: +13.1%
Fool me three times, and along will come the likes of Ross Perot. From 1993 to 2001, the Republicans lost executive control, arguably because of their profigate spending over the previous 12 years. The resulting emergence of Perot, causing a vote split, at least aided in the resulting Democratic victory:
Decrease in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 1993-1997: -0.6%
Increase in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 1997-2001: -8.2%
In 2000, the Republican party decided that something President Clinton had achieved, paying down the national debt, was a continuing moral imperative.
The federal government has operated in the black for the last two years and is now projected to run a surplus of nearly $5 trillion over ten years... we are also determined ... to pay down the national debt. Reducing that debt is both a sound policy goal and a moral imperative. Our families and most states are required to balance their budgets; it is reasonable to assume the federal government should do the same.
Increase in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 2001 - 2005: +6.9%
And we all know now how much the Republicans respect 'moral imperatives' like the 6th commandment.
In 2004, not willing to leave bad fortune telling to economists, the Republican party platform promised to shrink the deficit they themselves had promised to eliminate down to 1.5% of GDP.
...because the President and Congress enacted pro-growth economic policies, the deficit is headed strongly in the right direction. Next year's projected deficit, at 2.7 percent of GDP, would be smaller than those in 14 of the last 25 years. As Republicans in Congress work with the President to restrain spending and strengthen economic growth, the federal deficit will fall to 1.5 percent of the nation's economic output in 2009 -- well below the 2.2 percent average of the last 40 years.
Increase in Federal Debt compared to GDP, 2005 - 2009: +11.2%
In 2008, for the first time, the Republican party gave up, and refused to discuss the deficit.
In fact, the word 'deficit' is not found in their Party platform, Instead, the platform attacked the Congressional budget process, something Republicans were in control of for much of the last twelve years. And they decided to go for the jugular:
Republicans will attack wasteful Washington spending immediately.
Imagine that. Being against wasteful spending! The mind boggles.
Now here we are, in 2010, and they are at it again, this time in the form of the Contract from America, the Tea Party Manifesto:
- Demand a Balanced Budget...
- Restore Fiscal Responsibility...
- End Runaway Government Spending...
And just how much longer can a nose grow?
(for a graph showing changes in US debt as a percent of GDP, see here)