Posted By Eric Ethington (Author) on April 28, 2012
In the past 3 days, I’ve had no less than 4 conservatives try to persuade me that the only way to reduce the national deficit is by spending and tax cuts. It was less than 15 years ago that we had a balanced budget, is that really the way it came about? Nope.
The last time the United States had a balanced budget (and a surplus), was under President Bill Clinton in the 90′s. I’m getting a little tired of hearing “tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts” over and over, so I wanted to revisit how that balance and surplus came to be.
Most people would agree that the beginning of the booming Clinton economy began with the budget of 1993. This groundbreaking legislation was passed solely with Democrat votes, and consisted of roughly half spending cuts matched with half tax increases on the top 1% of the wealthy mixed with tax cuts on lower-income Americans. Republicans at the time argued ferociously and vigorously that the tax increases on the top 1% would lead to less jobs being created and an economic downward spiral (remarkably similar rhetoric to the conservative arguments today). However, the end result was not a huge deficit increase as the GOP predicted, but rather a 90% deficit reduction and a thriving economy. In other words, it worked. That 1993 budget, matched with additional legislation, reduced taxes on middle class parents with children, foster children, and those who were paying for higher education, resulting in America enjoying its first real budget surplus in decades.
Keep in mind too, that this was a full 4 years prior to the 1997 passage of the “Balanced Budget Act.”
It’s a lie that liberals want to see higher tax rates across the board, rather, liberals push for finding that balance where the burden is shifted towards proportionate equality. Taxes in the United States on the wealthiest are currently lower than at any time since the 1970′s, yet we still hear a constant Fox-fueled stream of rhetoric flowing from conservative pundits saying, “if only we could get those taxes even lower, then everything would be ok.” It’s the unfortunate truth that this over-simplified view has so permeated its way through the elected conservative body that it has begun to sound rational in the public dialogue. It’s not.
If we had maintained the same fiscal discipline and restraints enacted during the Clinton Administration (many of which had strong bipartisan support) during the tenure of George W Bush, then next year in 2013 we as a nation would be celebrating our first time completely out of debt since 1832. Unfortunately, the conservative-dominated congress and White House of the early 2000′s immediately focused on eliminating the smart-government policies that had preceded it, resulting in higher taxes on low and middle-income families, spending cuts, and tax breaks for the wealthiest 1%. The balance and harmony of fiscal responsibility which was the legacy of President Clinton was broken in an instant, resulting in the great recession which we are only now starting to pull out of.
Unfortunately, with the current political climate of hyper-partisanship and hyperbole, a bipartisan and fiscally sound budget is unlikely to be passed any time soon. The Right’s spending cuts matched equally with the Left’s revenue policies, it’s the only template America has actually seen in the past century which led towards a true balanced budget.
We as voting citizens have the obligation to see through the hazy cloud of punditry and false rhetoric to remember our own history. Stop theorizing and trying to reinvent the wheel, follow the existing templates and guides which have yielded proven economic success.