John Boehner just gave us a good example of the irrationality of the austerity and deficit hysteria he is pushing. He claimed that he has watched the government spending problem "kick the can down the road" for the 22 years he has been in office and the spending has to stop. The truth is that, during the first 10 years of his time in Congress, Bill Clinton, cooperating with congressional Republicans, brought the deficit under control and presented a surplus to George W. Bush in January 2001. Then Mr. Boehner voted for the Bush tax cuts and "kicking the can down the road" began in a big way.
So, Mr. Boehner has a very bad memory or he is just telling a bald-faced lie for political purposes. Either way, he should be called on the carpet for it. More interesting is how, when a Republican is president, he has no issue with "kicking the can down the road," yet when a Democrat is president he is running around screaming, "The sky is falling."
The truth is that spending, a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, is in line with past historical levels. Mr. Boehner has a serious problem with a double standard.
Not to be outdone, the Record-Courier on Feb. 18 printed a political cartoon showing President Obama dragging America to an impact with a big deficit meteorite under a "tax and spend" umbrella. This notion that our debt problems are caused by "tax and spend" policies is a boiler-plate myth pushed by Republicans and conservatives. The reality is that anyone competent with basic arithmetic can see the fallacy of this argument. Taxing and spending has never been the prime cause of our debt. When we collect enough taxes, the revenues pay for the spending.
The real problem is that when we cut taxes, and borrow to cover our spending, the deficits and debt really explode. It is just common sense. If you do not collect enough revenue to cover spending you automatically have more deficits and debt. History shows this. In the past 30 years Republicans have made cutting taxes their core theme. Since President Carter, their "borrow and spend" policies have added $10 trillion to our debt. Additionally, their stubborn refusal to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, as promised, is a major cause of Obama's $5 trillion debt. The rest of the cause is dealing with the recession and keeping it from being a full-blown depression.
This is all basic economics. Keynes's economic prescription for high unemployment and recession is higher government spending to take up the slack. The failure of austerity policies in Europe affirm Keynes's basic point: Cutting government spending in a depressed economy drives the economy further down and increases unemployment. This is the basic reality that Mr. Boehner and the other "cut the spending" supporters are ignoring.
Our solution in the United States is to place jobs and prosperity first and then turn to austerity to tackle the debt, much like President Clinton. We need to put teachers, firefighters and police back to work. We need to address the record high level of economic inequity by putting more progressivity back into our tax system and back away from regressive Republican tax policies. Finally, we need to attend to repairing our infrastructure now instead of waiting until it costs us twice as much at (perhaps)much higher interest rates.
Do not fall for the "cut the spending" austerity trap. Austerity is the wrong prescription for our country at this time.
Charles Chlysta III, Shalersville