August 03, 2003

Budget Politics


That gubernatorial record could turn off some liberal true believers. Or it could allow Dean to execute a political pivot in next year's presidential primaries. A New England governor with a budget-balancing reputation might prove useful as the primaries move south of the Mason-Dixon line. "The national role reversal is that Democrats have become the party of the balanced budget," said Eric Davis, a Middlebury College political scientist. "Howard Dean can lay claim to that."

is a politcal chimera--while it is true that the last national balanced budgets were under a Democratic President (and Republican Congress, I would note), there was nothing about the policies of Clinton that led to the balanced bugdet. Rather, it was the economic boom that balanced the budget.

And while the Democrats may crow about their past fiscal success and deride the Bush administration for "creating deficits"--it won't be any different if after 2004 there is total Democratic control of all the budget-relevant branches of the federal government; unless the economy takes off like gangbusters, there will be deficits. They are the norm.

I am not saying I like this fact, and I would prefer a balanced budget, but facts are facts. Plus, the structure of the federal budget, with 2/3rds of it essentially locked into mandatory spending, with legally mandated annual increases, makes balancing more difficult than it sounds.

In short, if the Dems are the "party of the balanced budget" it is for rhetorical purposes only.

I will grant that Dean has legitimate claim to the issue, given his succes in Vermont. Still, it is easier to balance to budget of a small state than it is to tame the beast that is the federal budget. And cowing the US Congress is quite a task.

Source: As Governor, Dean Was Fiscal Conservative

Posted by Steven at August 3, 2003 07:53 AM | TrackBack

Nonsense. Such utter tripe.

Why not just resurrect David Stockman's "magic asterisk," Steven?

To say our last democratically-elected President had nothing to do with balancing the budget is just goofy. I understand that you may wish to forget President Clinton's economic plan; after all, your fellow Repugs were certain that it would plunge this nation into recession, depression and record unemployment. For laughs, it's always fun to see what Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Dick Armey, and and other Repug luminaries said about President Clinton's economic plan at the time.

Well, Steven, it worked. And the best you have to offer now is try and revise history; to try and claim that it was some fluke or that it was actually attributable to the efforts of the Repug Congress. But that argument fails when you consider the Crawford Cretin has a Repug Congress, he has Alan Greenspan, and he's getting just about everything he wants on his economic agenda. Yet, the economy continues to amass huge deficits and record high unemployment.

Posted by: JadeGold at August 3, 2003 01:38 PM

And what "economic plan" was this, my friend?

Precisely what was it that "worked"? What precise sets of fiscal policies brought about the boom? Trusy me, I would love to know, and so would everyone else.

Posted by: Steven at August 3, 2003 03:17 PM

This new Dem talking point resembles David Adesnik's assertion that Democrats are the party of free trade. In both cases, it obscures the point that Clinton isn't running, and Dems without Clinton's leadership (1) desire runaway federal spending more so than Bush and (2) hate all forms of free trade. I think the "economic basis" for Clinton's balanced budgets is mostly accurate, but even Clinton would've had deficits for as far as the eye could see had he not been defeated on health care and had he not decided to triangulate his way into less spending to get reelected in 1996. Or to make it nice and slogan-y, "National health care = budget deficts" and "No welfare reform = budget deficits."

Posted by: Matthew at August 3, 2003 04:01 PM

Looks like your dem reader above has swallowed the party line. Newt was asked on Meet the Press to what he attributed the good economy. He answered, correctly I think, that it was about 5% due to the president, 5% to Congress, and 90% to the American economy, which would have boomed in the nineties (internet, wireless, personal computers) if Elmer Fudd had been president.

Posted by: mg at August 3, 2003 04:35 PM

My, my. Why do Repugs get amnesia when our last democratically-elected President is mentioned?

First, let's take a look at the videotape from 1993. First up, Repug Minority Whip John Kasich on President Clinton's Economic Stimulus and Deficit Reduction Plan with a rant about how the plan would not be successful: "This plan will not work. If it was to work, then I'd have to become a Democrat."

Next up, we have the human error machine, Newt Gingrich: "the tax increases will lead to a recession and will actually increase the deficit."

Phil Gramm, Repug and Economics Professor: "[H]undreds of thousands of Americans will lose their jobs because of this bill."

Bob Dole was even quoted predicting the Clinton economic plan might lead to a depression.

Yet Steven seems bound and determined to deny President Clinton even had a plan. No; according to Steven, the robust economy of the 1990s just happened. What the Repugs were railing about is irrelevant and best forgotten. After all, we can't actually be seen criticizing a plan that worked. It's best if we all pretended there wasn't a plan. After all, there's a war on.

Repugs can't admit President Clinton's 1993 Deficit Reduction Act increased taxes on the most affluent Americans, decreased Federal spending, slashed the Federal workforce, and promoted business credits for technical and capitol improvements. They can't admit it because it worked. They can't admit its success because not one solitary Repug voted for it.

Posted by: JadeGold at August 3, 2003 04:45 PM

You need to be a little more specific, JadeGold. The fact that it was named the Economic Stimulus and Deficit Reduction Act does not mean that it did either, any more than the Freedom to Marry Act is going to increase freedom to marry.

What everyone is looking for is the part where you explain how the deficit reduction act, which wasn't supposed to balance the budget on a cash basis until Clinton was out of office, produced the record deficits. It would also account for the recent analysis by the OMB, showing that the surplus was produced by a change in the composition of the tax base, not by any statutory policy, including the Clinton tax increase, which produced rather disappointing revenue increases, far below what the Clinton administration had projected. It was the movement of people into higher tax brackets because of internet wealth, not the raising of the rates on those brackets, that appears to have closed the budget.

Posted by: Jane Galt at August 4, 2003 07:11 AM

Oops. Obviously, tthat deficit should read "surplus" in the second para.

Posted by: Jane Galt at August 4, 2003 07:12 AM

Dearest Jane, I'm afraid you've exposed me. Bill Clinton wasn't President, we didn't really have a robust economy during much of the 1990s and if we did it was surely an accident or all due to a Repug Congress or Ronald Reagan single-handedly wrestling the Red Army to its knees.

Besides, there's a war on--don'cha know?

But *if* Bill Clinton actually existed and he was able to pass, say, a Deficit Reduction Act of 1993 by a single vote, it might have increased taxes on the most affluent, decreased Federal spending, slashed the Federal workforce, and promoted business credits for technical and capitol improvements. Alan Greenspan (does he exist, Dear Jane?) might have testified before Congress that such legislation as the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993--had it existed--would caused a reduction in interest rates, higher business investments, reduced government borrowing in the financial markets and a stronger economy. The targeted tax cuts might have given business incentives for purchasing new equipment, such as computers and related equipment. This might have boosted economy with the added bonus of greatly increasing productivity.

Ahhh, if only economics weren't a fantasy.

Posted by: JadeGold at August 4, 2003 02:14 PM

You do realzie, that by your own logic, any recovery in the economy will have to laid at George W. Bush's feet alone, and that indeed, the current uptick in GDP growth has to be because of his tax cuts. After all, he said that it was for economic stimulus. Therefore, it must be so.


Posted by: Steven at August 4, 2003 02:25 PM

By the way, are you acquainted with the logical fallacy known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc?

Give this a look: here.

Posted by: Steven at August 4, 2003 02:28 PM

But of course, Steven. If good things happen, then it's all because of Georgie. If it happened under our last democratically-elected President, it was either bad or the direct result of actions taken by his predecessor.

Or it might have been due to magic.

In any case, bad things never happen on Georgie's watch. (Ritual disclaimer: there's a war on.)

Posted by: JadeGold at August 4, 2003 04:51 PM

Actually, I'm not the one arguing that particular Presidents ought be given credit for the economy...

Posted by: Steven at August 4, 2003 04:58 PM


But you did make the foolish comment that there was (quote) nothing about the policies of Clinton that led to the balanced bugdet.Rather, it was the economic boom that balanced the budget. (end quote)

The fact remains a President..any President, even an unelected one can initiate policies which may have profound effects--for better or worse--on the economy.

Posted by: JadeGold at August 4, 2003 05:57 PM
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