BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
“If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing,” so says David Stockman, budget director for President Ronald Reagan, writing in an opinion column in the New York Times.
Stockman says in his Four Deformations of the Apocalypse that this nation’s fiscal woes come “not from big spending Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.”
Who would ever have expected such views from the principal fiscal advisor to the iconic conservative Republican president revered by all his followers from 1980 down to the present time? One can only presume that  Mr. Stockman’s heart may not have been in some of the actions during that past administration;  he considers this an entirely different time and circumstance; or  he has learned much from studying the economic and budgetary effects of the Reagan tax cuts and the Bush tax cuts. We suspect the latter of the three.
Pointing to the growth in the national debt which he says may become as much as $18 trillion under present projections, Stockman says this huge sum will be 40 times its earlier size of $450 billion in 1970. He points not to growth in spending programs, but to the cutting of revenues. In other words, he is again saying it is not “big spending” but short-sighted revenue tax cuts that are creating the problems now and on into the projected future.
He says, “It is the ideological tax cutters who killed the Republican fiscal religion.” Thus he indicates that maintaining a sufficient and reliable revenue stream is the first necessity of true fiscal responsibility.
Stockman says that by 2009 the tax-cutters had lowered the federal revenue stream to only 15% of the gross domestic product, the lowest since 1940. “Republicans joined in a shameless free-lunch fiscal policy,” he says of the tax cuts.
Reagan’s fiscal advisor goes on to name bad tax policy as a primary cause of the current recession, and he abhors the fact that it has weakened the middle class and led to much greater wealth concentration among just a few within the American population. Stockman points to the statistical facts that “from 2002 to 2006 the upper 1% among us received two-thirds of the national income while the lower 90% received only 12% of the nation’s income.” While not mentioned, mathematically that leaves the 9% of the population just under the top 1% [making up the rest of the top 10%] getting a whopping 21% of all income, or two-thirds of that not already taken by the top 1%.
Stockman says that this represents “the decaying fruit of bad economic policy.” Under any standards of judgment, the gross imbalance of income in this nation is unfair and discriminatory in favor of the wealthy. Paraphrasing Mr. Stockman, “It stinks.”
Those who make such calculations tell us that just re-enacting the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy adds another $400 billion a year to our debt. Re-enacting all of the Bush tax cuts would add about than $1.3 trillion to our debt projections for the decade. No true fiscal conservative can rationally justify such actions.
Mr. Stockman is also concerned with “deformations” other than tax-cuts and a tax policy with bad social and economic consequences. He points toward allowing the loss of manufacturing jobs out of the country, both in trade policies and tax policies allowing our own industries to take jobs out and ship goods back. Our trade policies wreak devastation on our economy, our jobs, and on our tax collections.
All of the talk about cutting discretionary expenditures will not solve America’s fiscal problems. No really knowledgeable person believes that this alone will even make a dent in reducing our projected deficits and debt. It is time for politicians to stop lying to the voters about this.
There is nowhere that this basic lesson is needed more than in low tax myopic Oklahoma, where revenues have been successively cut and special interests served with tax breaks and exemptions, until there are insufficient revenues to provide for a decent quality of services to the people. Here we have illogical voters demanding and expecting a quality education system, humanly decent penal institutions, children’s protective services to save the mistreated children, and all the other accoutrements of good government without being willing to carry a tax burden above the lowest states in the nation.
Republicans expect above average schools from below average tax support. They expect the same miracle in more and higher quality degrees from our colleges and universities with barely marginal support, transferring costs to parents.
It is time to stop the political posturing and the grandstanding plays before the voters, and it is time to start facing the hard problems and talking truth. Most rational people, like Stockman, know that it is time to stop blowing smoke at the public and to start making real progress through revenue enhancement, as well as carefully screening expenditures.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer