In this second year of unified Republican national government, the federal budget deficit soared to nearly $800 billion, a 6-year high and nearly 50% larger than when President Obama left office. The annual deficit will top $1 trillion each of the next 3 years, maintaining near trillion-dollar levels thereafter.
Such a sharp, rapid rise in federal deficit, at the height of the 7-year economic and employment expansion inherited from President Obama, and in the immediate aftermath of 6 years of declining Obama-era deficits, is disgracefully irresponsible. Such deficits, however, are an enduring constant of Republican governance. Republicans oppose deficits in words only. Since 1980, regardless of economic situation, every Republican president has massively increased deficits and every Democratic president has dramatically reduced deficits.
The same two Republican policies cause Republican deficit increases: (1) hugely regressive tax cuts for the super-wealthy that produce no sustained economic benefit; and (2) enormous increases in unnecessary weapons programs that do nothing for national security. That policy combination has been the preeminent Republican article of faith since 1980. In each instance, Republicans lied unrelentingly about deficits and the policies that caused them to grow or shrink. Republicanism exhibits both fiscal and moral deficits.
Republican deficit lies are regular and transparent. During the final years of the Clinton Administration, when deficits were reversed into surpluses and the national debt was being paid down, Republicans continued to imply that deficits were growing. When George W. Bush became president, Republicans implemented massive spending increases and regressive tax cuts that turned surplus to deficit even before the events of September 11. Republicans supported deficit-financed spending until 2009, when they suddenly insisted that newly-elected President Obama immediately cut the massive Republican-created $1.5 billion deficit during the depths of the greatest global economic crisis in a century (when deficit spending is actually the best way to stimulate recovery). As the Republican-created deficits shrank during the last 6 years of the Obama Administration, Republicans continuously and falsely claimed that deficits were growing at record rates. As soon as Trump took office, Republicans reverted to ignoring deficits, passing massive spending increases and tax cuts that ratcheted deficits back up to Bush-era levels.
Connecticut Republicans have shamelessly spread similar lies over the last two decades. From 1994 until 2010, Republican governors Roland and Rell presided over dramatically increased state spending, deficits and public sector employment, while private sector employment shrank under Rell. Republicans supported all the policies that produced those ruinous results. Under Democratic Governor Malloy, state spending declined slightly, state deficits declined massively, public sector employment dropped, and private sector employment reached an all-time high. Nonetheless, throughout Malloy’s term Connecticut Republicans falsely claimed spending and deficits increased, and that private sector employment decreased.
As Governor-elect Lamont initiates programs to accelerate repair of Connecticut finances and economy, view Republican criticisms with the extreme mistrust they warrant.
Alex Harris is Chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which provides this column.