A Fiscal Conservative Looking for Candidates

By Beacon Staff

I have always been a fiscal conservative and a social progressive looking for the candidates from either party that best fit the type of leadership needed at any time. As a social progressive, I believe in investing in the continuous improvement of civilization and, as a fiscal conservative, I believe that the ensuing bills should be paid. Until 1980, the Republican Party had offered candidates that shared at least the conservative portions of my views. Since then, however, it has not.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan began making drastic tax cuts with the promise that businesses and the personal incomes of all Americans would flourish. When his VP, George H.W. Bush, promised more of the same – “read my lips, no new taxes” – he was elected in 1988.

Three years later, however, G.H.W. Bush realized that at least one aspect of the Reagan Doctrine was not working – we were not getting our bills paid. Therefore, in the last year of his presidency, he took the fiscally responsible step of raising taxes. The Right Wing of his party then deserted him for going back on his promise and he lost the presidential election of 1992 to a relatively inexperienced Democratic candidate. President Clinton also believed in paying our bills, however, and the national debt then decreased continuously throughout his two terms.

Then came George W. Bush in 2000. After witnessing the “mistake” his father had made, he put our country back on the tax-cutting Reagan course. As a result, the accumulation of personal wealth by the wealthiest Americans did indeed again soar, as expected. In 1955, the top 400 U.S. taxpayers made an average of $12.3 million (adjusted to 2006 dollars) while paying 51 percent of that amount for federal taxes (according to Sam Pizzigati of the Institute for Policy Studies). Fifty years later in 2006, the average income of the top 400 was $263 million and only 17 percent of that amount went to federal taxes. Quite understandably, many wealthy Americans love the Reagan Doctrine and promote its continued use.

However, throughout the presidency of G.W. Bush our country again did not pay its bills and the national debt soared over that eight-year period from $4 trillion to $10 trillion. In addition, the “trickle down” theory, a central component of the Reagan Doctrine, did not work during the Bush administration any better than it had during Reagan’s administration and the division of personal wealth within our country grew to unprecedented levels. Also, the total economy of the U.S. did not grow any faster during the low tax eras of Reagan and the Bushes than it did during the higher tax decades of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Finally, during the last months of G.W. Bush’s second term, the U.S. economy went into a free-fall of the type not seen since 1929.

In the fall of 2008 G.W. Bush finally recognized that we had a problem that was not going to be solved by the Reagan Doctrine and began massive government involvement in our nation’s economy. For that offense, the Republican Right Wing distanced itself from the younger Bush just as it had from his father in 1991.

While the Democrats are now in charge and are seeking practical solutions to our myriad problems, it is not entirely clear what the Republicans are thinking and what they will be offering in upcoming elections. Only the plans of its Right Wing are clear – it will attack the current administration on every move it makes and try to convince Americans that a third trial of the Reagan Doctrine will get us out of the mess that same Doctrine created.

I hope that the rest of the Republican Party is finally remembering the old saying: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.” Perhaps then, the Party of Lincoln will once again offer candidates who are fiscally responsible and can help get our country back on a track that serves the nation as a whole and all of its citizens.

Eric Grimsrud is a recently retired atmospheric scientist and chemistry professor now living near Kalispell. His current activities are described on his Web site, ericgrimsrud.com.

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