WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2015 − Watching the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, one couldn’t help noting that all the candidates were offering voters a continuation of the Obama administration’s failed policies of the past seven years. Tuesday’s spectacle was reminiscent of a debate held 35 years ago, on Oct. 28, 1980. Then-candidate for president Ronald Reagan listened intently to President Carter’s suggestions for economic policy and then famously concluded, “Tax and spend. Here we go again.”
Reagan was referring to Carter’s desire to increase taxes, primarily on the wealthy, and then use the money to increase government spending on social programs. At the time the federal income tax system was highly “progressive,” boasting a top rate of 70 percent. Carter was also pushing for a national health Insurance bill and numerous other income transfer social programs.
InTuesday’s debate, most of what the candidates offered voters amounted to a continuation of President Obama’s tax-and-spend policies. Obama inherited a $2.8 trillion federal government budget, which he immediately increased to $3.6 trillion. Worse, despite the efforts of an increasingly Republican Congress, he was able to raise the level of government spending to nearly $4 trillion during the most recent fiscal year.
Because he likes to claim that he has reduced the inflated deficit that he created by 50 percent, Obama ultimately had to raise taxes. Obamacare includes more than 20 new taxes paid for essentially by all Americans. He also increased the federal income tax rate by 10 percent for the largest contributors to the U.S. economy, while also raising the capital gain tax from 15 percent to as high as 23.8 percent for some taxpayers.
The result of seven years of these policies is crystal clear, at least to those whose heads are not stuck in the sand. As a nation, we have experienced the worst economic recovery in modern history: a seemingly permanent loss of more than 6 million adults from the workforce; the largest number of Americans in history living in poverty; the largest number of Americans receiving food stamps; and an increase in both income inequality and continuing slow growth.
The Democratic candidates all want to raise the minimum wage. While compassionate Americans generally look favorably on this idea, the reality is that it creates extremely high unemployment rates for unskilled workers and relentlessly encourages more jobs to be automated through technology. This, in turn, leads to long-term job loss nationwide and significantly raises prices for industries like fast food, which often serve as the first rung on the employment ladder for lower-income Americans.
In keeping with their tax-and-spend theme, the Democratic candidates also advocated differing plans to provide “free” college tuition and eliminate or at least subsidize student debt. Taxpayers are already on the hook to pay for 12 years of largely inferior schooling for all American students. Raising taxes to pay for increasingly out-of-control college tuition expenses is a massive burden that should not be placed on the shoulders of our already long-suffering taxpayers.
While incurring tuition debt is still a likely route for most students, the debt repayment they will ultimately confront ends up being equivalent of a car payment or more for 10 years and potentially beyond. Indeed, that is a significant burden. But it is a bearable burden that encourages individual responsibility as graduates transfer into contributing, tax-paying members of society. And there are ways to minimize the burden.
On the issue of energy, the candidates placed global warming/climate change and environmental concerns above the far more obvious need to improve the nation’s currently very poor economic situation. Surprisingly, economic growth was mentioned very little. Rather, one candidate suggested using government programs to grow the green energy business so that the U.S. can be free of fossil fuels in 35 years.
While the country can debate the reasons why we should pursue this costly goal, the green energy dream could be more easily accomplished if the economy were strong, growing at a healthy rate and generating large amounts of income for the average citizen, something currently not in evidence.
To finance government spending programs, the candidates want to tax the wealthy to force them to pay their “fair share” and to reduce income inequality. After witnessing what has happened in the past when taxes were raised on the wealthy while spending on social programs for low income earners was increased, the candidates should should have considered trying something else. For the past seven years, policies such as these have resulted in an increase in the national poverty rate, a worsening income inequality gap, a sustained period of no growth in the nation’s economy and a record number of Americans receiving food stamps.
Since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all advocated less government spending and less taxation. The reality is that all four presidents did increase spending and at some point, raising taxes as well. But their overriding economic goal was generally to reduce government spending, reduce taxes and balance the budget.
The Democrats’ ideas have not worked in the past and will not work in the future. To strengthen the economy and provide opportunity for all Americans, this country needs growth-oriented policies.
History shows that this means smaller government, more individual responsibility, lower taxes and more personal freedom. As Tuesday’s debate revealed, the current Democratic candidates for president are clearly out of step with the needs of the country.
*Above cartoon by Branco. Reprinted by arrangement and permission via LegalInsurrection.