When you get down to it, and not even that far down, Ronald Reagan's assumptions and style are a lot like the ancient child-gobbler, Molech.
As I discussed here back on Reagan's centennial (which ironically came only a couple of months before the centennial of the Triangle Fire), the godfather of the postmodern conservative movement was the pioneer of running huge federal government deficits and building a giant national debt.
The reason Reagan did it was coldly cynical. His plan was that by cutting taxes, and getting huge increases in military spending, the resultant deficit-spending would outrage Americans so much that they would demand social programs (which Republicans derisively call "welfare") be slashed or eliminated. Obviously, one assumption of such a plan is that Americans are dumb as stones, which it would seem based upon history since Reagan, the former GE spokesperson was quite correct in assuming.
But one thing this chart makes pretty clear, to people who can read charts anyway, is that Democrats reduce debt, and Republicans increase it. This is because Democrats, until fairly recently, tended to raise taxes to pay for spending, whereas Republicans cut taxes on the premise that decreasing individual taxes (and especially taxes for wealthy people and businesses) would stimulate the economy enough to make up the difference in revenue.
That Republican assumption has proven disastrously wrong.
Here is what Reagan's chief economic guru, David Stockman, recently said about the Republican mantra that lowering taxes produces increased tax revenue:
"So we're spending $3.8 trillion in defense, non-defense, entitlements, everything else, and we're taking in only 2.2 trillion. So we got a massive gap. You have to pay your bills; you can't keep borrowing from the rest of the world at that magnitude, year after year after year. So in light of all of those facts, I say we can't afford the Bush tax cuts."Stockman says it is quite clear the American people want their government programs, but they have been convinced by Republicans that they don't have to pay for them. In the same way Republicans convinced the majority of Americans, including very poor ones, that going into back-breaking personal debt was the best way to "have stuff" (identity is synonymous with obsessive consumption in the USA) and also keep everybody employed at their beloved jobs. That worked, via various precarious bubbles, until the debts, in ridiculously gamed mortgage securities, sent us into a worldwide Great Recession.
Now, in spite of what Stockman says is an American addiction to government assistance programs, another way of looking at the debt problem is that you could of course cut spending, as Paul Ryan argues in his "kill-the-poor" budget proposal. This Republican plan rewards the rich with over a trillion dollars of tax cuts (again, on the disproven notion that this will pay for itself someday), while slashing every social program to the bone. If that proposal is accepted, the short-term result of it will be to enhance the wealth and power of the richest Americans, while increasing immeasurably the suffering of the poorest Americans.
The long-term result of it can only be conjectured, but even Ryan admits that for a LONG time, decades, the supposed debt-reducing benefit of his scheme will not be experienced. It is a long-shot gamble, and really an example of depending upon a conservative oracle, to turn the country (completely) into a poor-gobbling Molech.
UPDATE: February 12, 2014, Almost three years later, and I wanted to add a couple of other things. First off, the wit and wisdom of David Stockman on the fiscal idiocy of Republicans had an even better expression than the one I provided above. In a 2010 NY Times Op-Ed, Stockman said the following:
"This debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts."Again, consider what Stockman says. It isn't tax-and-spend that makes deficits and public debt. It is NO-tax-and-spend that makes deficits and public debt.
And it has been the Republican Party that has been the irresponsible political party, which so disastrously chose that utterly discredited approach to government, which has driven the nation into a debt ditch.
Last year, Stockman published a book examining the decline of American democracy, via what Stockman called the Great Deformation of American capitalism. In this book, and recalling that Stockman is no fan of Barack Obama and Democrats, whom he characterizes as "big-spending statists", Stockman nevertheless rips apart what he calls the intellectually bankrupt Republican Party, including the person who is supposed to be the budget whiz of the conservatives, Paul Ryan:
"The Ryan budget was a brutal, unprincipled attack on the means-tested safety net, a position that candidate Mitt Romney famously...crystallized in his lament about the 47%...the Ryan budget amounted to a declaration of class war."Stockman's disagreement with Ryan is not on the idea of cutting spending on social programs, but of who is targeted in the effort to do so. Stockman notes that while Ryan's budget slashes spending for the means-tested poor of America, "trillions of [Social Security and Medicare] would [continue to] go to upper-income and wealthy retires who hadn't earned it and didn't need it."
Of course, the GOP has paid little attention to Stockman's critique, as for a number of years now the Republican Party has been dominated and bullied by the Tea Party members—who have delighted in bullying the whole nation as well.
Last night, we saw the latest move by Speaker John Boehner to pull the Republicans back from the brink of utter intellectual destruction—represented by the Tea Party's looney ideas.
Meanwhile, in the White House, Barack Obama no doubt is encouraged to see the Republicans tearing themselves apart, as the President's own considerable weaknesses have not been exploited by his even weaker enemies.
As for the USA, Stockman concludes, in talking about the 2012 election campaign:
"[The] election signaled the onset of sundown in America, and not merely because an avowed big-spending statist won the race. Rather, it is because [Mitt Romney] proved in words and lifelong deeds that there is no conservative party left in America."I can add to this that there is certainly no liberal party left in America either. Instead, we have two right-wing, statist parties, with the Democrats a little more concerned about social justice and economic fairness than the disastrously insane GOP. But the differences are insufficient to anoint the Democrats as any kind of truly beneficial alternative. The Dems are, as they have been for years, merely the lesser evil of the monster Ronald Reagan created and cast in the horrible move, "Sundown For Bonzo".