Home > Economics > Points of Departure

Points of Departure

August 4th, 2012

This is a post from exactly a year ago, but merits repeating.

I just want to bring up a little bit of history here. Back in 2000, when we were looking at surpluses, Republicans hated the idea. They were nearly apoplectic at the thought of government taking in more than it spent within a limited time frame. They used the catchphrase, “It’s your money,” as if the people were being robbed or something. It was as if the debt did not exist, and did not need to be paid off, so if the government had a surplus, that meant that taxes were too high.

Clinton and Gore proposed paying off the debt (by 2013!), extending the solvency of Social Security, and even establishing a reserve in case emergency funds were needed. Yes, the economic downturn at the turn of the century would have muted this, but had Gore been in office, the economy would have been much better. No huge tax cuts for the wealthy, no Iraq War, and, even if 9/11 had gotten past the counter-terrorism structure that Bush disassembled, the war in Afghanistan would have been shorter and far less costly. We might have maintained surpluses and actually gotten some debt reduction (though we probably would not have paid off the whole debt by 2013, especially with Republicans whining about surpluses and pushing for tax cuts); we certainly would have had a far healthier economy, back in 2001 and later on as well, no question about that whatsoever.

Republicans rejected the idea of paying off debts. They wanted to erase the surplus with tax cuts–which they did, and then some. Then 9/11 hit, and they added the burden of two massively expensive land wars in Asia. Over the years, they piled on more tax cuts, more unpaid-for entitlements, and precisely the kind of wasteful pork-barrel spending they always accused Democrats of, even worse than the Democrats actually carried out themselves. They drove the economy into a deep ditch, and then tried to pile all the blame on the next Democrat who took office, as if nothing untoward had happened in the previous eight years and the debt crisis had somehow how magically materialized the moment Obama stepped into the Oval Office.

Amazing how history can hinge on even the smallest of things. There is one graphic designer somewhere in Florida who slapped together the butterfly ballot for Palm Beach County for the 2000 elections. Had that person not made a simple design error, Gore would not have lost thousands of votes to Buchanan (and to Gore-Buchanan cross-votes), and the course of American history would have been changed to an astonishing extent.

And to think that in the 2000 elections, people bemoaned the idea that there was little or no difference between Gore and Bush.

Categories: Economics Tags: by
Comments are closed.