God’s Honest Truth|About Tax Cuts

     I know it’s un-American, and may soon be illegal, but let’s be honest for moment about “tax cuts,” and how they brought us an economic catastrophe so great we are on the brink of national default.
     The United States passed from being the world’s greatest creditor to the world’s greatest debtor under President Ronald Reagan.
     Reagan’s tax cuts, like the even more disastrous, and even more dishonest, tax cuts of President George W. Bush, overwhelmingly benefited the 2 percent of citizens who own 90 percent of our nation’s wealth.
     Thanks to those tax cuts, the national debt increased by 20.6 percent, as a percent of Gross Domestic Product, under Reagan’s two terms. It increased by another 13 percent under President George H.W. Bush.
     The national debt grew by 71.9 percent under President George W. Bush: an increase of 27.8 percent of GDP.
     That’s a 61.4 percent increase in national debt/GDP under our latest three Republican presidents – all of whom swore that cutting taxes would somehow reduce the debt.
     Bush II’s debt increases, of $6.4 trillion, were the largest such increase in history, in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP.
     All statistics in this column come from the Congressional Budget Office.
     During Bush II’s two terms, Congress increased the debt limit of the United States seven times.
     Without much brouhaha.
     Actually, the increase in the national debt as a result of Bush II’s tax cuts, mathematically, was infinite, as Bush inherited a $236 billion budget surplus from President Clinton, and left President Obama with a one-year deficit of $1.4 trillion, which turned out to be $1.8 trillion after correcting for lies and errors.
     The budget deficits of the succeeding years: $1.3 trillion in fiscal year 2010, and another trillion this fiscal year, had nothing to do with President Obama’s policies. They were the results of years of tax cuts for the rich, of two unnecessary wars, and of the escalating cost of medical care.
     The only time our national debt has decreased in the past generation, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, was under our last two Democratic presidents.
     The budget surplus that President Clinton bequeathed to Bush II was not a fluke: it was Clinton’s third budget surplus in 4 years. National debt decreased by 9.7 percent, as a percentage of GDP, under President Clinton.
     Before Clinton, the last time the national debt had decreased as a percentage of GDP was under the administration of Jimmy Carter, when it decreased by 3.3 percent.
     This is not a question of partisan bragging rights. It’s a question of national economic catastrophe, and of simple honesty.
     Ever since Reagan, increasingly under Bush II, and ever more stridently today, Republican officeholders have claimed that “tax hikes” will ruin our economy, and make us the economic basket case that we may become on Aug. 3.
     Which brings us to the original question: What, after all, is a tax hike?
     If our nation is economically healthy, reducing debt, running a surplus, and an irresponsible, vote-hunting president throws us into the red by cutting taxes so deeply, above all for the rich, that we become the world’s greatest debtor, because of those tax cuts, is it fair, is it rational, to say that a “tax increase,” which will not increase taxes even to the point they stood at before we became beggars to China, is really a tax increase at all?
     The top marginal tax rate under President Eisenhower was 91 percent. The top marginal corporate tax rate under Eisenhower was 52 percent. Both rates top out at 35 percent today. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, our latest Republican Savior, wants to cut the rates to 25 percent.
     Our country was not a basket case under Eisenhower. We were the richest, most powerful country and technologically advanced country in the world.
     We were all of that until our last three Republican presidents threw trillions of dollars of our national wealth at the richest people in the world: people who don’t need more money, who won’t spend it or hire people with it, who never have and never will pay their fair share of upkeep for the country that made it possible for them to become rich.
     And now these Republican zealots, these water boys for the rich, are exacerbating our economic crisis by refusing to remedy a situation their own party created. The tax-cutters are throwing our economy into the trash can to punish the nation for what Congress did.
     Remember: the debt ceiling has to be raised today to pay the bills that Congress itself rang up.
     The Republican Party is attempting, and may succeed, in crippling the U.S. economy in quest of short-term partisan advantage.
     But this, I am afraid, is only part of the Republican plan, which is devoted to inculcating in our country what Borges called a “Pedagogy of Hatred” – hatred of people who disagree with them. Borges used the phrase as the title of an essay he wrote about the Nazi party in 1937.

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