Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tea Party Hero: Bill Clinton

My good friend Bill Chafe (yes, one of the 88; deal with it) wrote a piece for the N&O this morn. And he's basically right. So I sent him this note:

Dear Bill:

I enjoyed your article in the N&O this morning.

Thought I would share a table I made up for an article I just wrote for CRITICAL REVIEW. This is total government spending per capita, in real (2010 constant) dollars, by decade:

Table: U.S. Nominal and Real (2010$) Federal Spending Per Capita
1970...$1,000.... $5,500
1980...$2,600.... $6,800
1990.. $5,100.... $8,300
2000.. $6,500.... $8,300
2010.. $12,300... $12,300

(Sources: Budgetof the US Government: Historical Tables 3.2 and 7.1, and StatisticalAbstract of the United States)

So ignoring the fact that Republicans are hopeless hypocrites about tax cuts, it is pretty clear that Republicans presidents are also the cause of spending increases! That's mostly, but not exclusively, because of idiotic military spending, but that hardly matters.

The usual story about how Clinton balanced the budget was that he had huge tax increases to cover his big spending growth. Well, thanks for playing, but no.

Constant dollar Gov't spending per person was $8,300 in 1900, and was still $8,300 in 2000 when "conservative" GWB took over.

We have had exactly one president who embodied the "keep spending low, balance the budget" conservative principles of the Tea Party since 1970, and his name was... Clinton.

So, goodONya, sir. Hope to see you sometime.



Marc said...

What that data show is that during the period that Clinton was president government spending per capita remained constant. It does not necessarily follow that Clinton was the reason it was so, or that he wanted it to be so or that if his ilk were to return it would be so again.

Anonymous said...

90 years of fail

Amateur Economist said...

Did you mean 1990 or 1900?

John Thacker said...

Bill Chafe is basically right that we should remember history and the Clinton legacy, but he's basically wrong, as you point out, to point to the Clinton tax increase as the reason that we didn't have a deficit. It was, as you note, keeping overall spending increases low.

He mentions the government shutdown, but fails to note that as a result of agreements from the government shutdown, spending was kept low.

Domestic non-defense spending was increased, but paid for with defense spending cuts.

Indeed, perhaps Tea Party people ought to praise Clinton and condemn GWB, but if so those who praise Clinton's policies, like Bill Chafe, ought to support the Tea Party's goals in the current budget dispute.

I would love to have the policies we had during the Clinton years. Would Bill Chafe?

Anonymous said...

Clinton's terms were the only times in recent history up to that point when Republicans gained dominant legislative power. Clinton did compromise, but mainly because he was forced too.

These years gave rise, though, not to Centrist democrats like Clinton, but rather to Republicans who pushed through the fiscal medicine. And it is very true that these Republicans squandered their reputation for fiscal probity rather quickly.

So the fiscal mantel passed back to "Centrist" Democrats in 2008, and in an amazingly short period of time they showed how extraordinarily reckless they could be when they had the full keys to power.

Ball is partially back in the chastised Republicans court. We'll see what they can do.