Lying works. Political spin. Poetic license. Fibbing. Slander. Libel. Call it what you’d like. Politicians lie. Because it works. Especially when you can’t win in the arena of ideas. If they can’t win the philosophical debate what do our politicians do? Attack the messenger, not the message. If the history doesn’t validate their policies what do they do? Revise history. It never changes. The only thing that does is the people hearing the lies.
Presidents may dream, but the House of Representatives controls the purse. That’s why there are numerous battles between Capitol Hill and the White House. Between Speakers of the House and presidents. Some of the big partisan battles in recent times? Tip O’Neil and Ronald Reagan. Tom Foley and George H.W. Bush. Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton. Nancy Pelosi and George W. Bush. When different political parties hold the White House and the Hill, the partisanship escalates. And the lies get more brazen. Especially on the political fringe.
Some lies bordered on the ridiculous. Like Ronald Reagan created AIDS to kill homosexuals. That George H. W. Bush flew to Iran on an SR-71 to meet secretly with the Iranians during the 1980 presidential campaign. Why? To negotiate with the Iranians to keep the American hostages until after the election. That George W. Bush blew up the Twin Towers to start a war that would let him invade Iraq. No doubt there was some political damage from these lies. But the lasting damage from these ridiculous lies pale in comparison to the Big Lies that the Left perpetuates to this day.
Ronald Reagan was president from 1981 until 1989. When he entered office, the economy was in the toilet. Double digit inflation. Double digit interest rates. Unemployment at 7.1%. Reagan wanted to cut taxes and spending. The Democrat controlled Congress wanted to increase federal spending to ‘stimulate’ the economy (ala Keynesian economics). The Congress fought him. But Reagan used the bully pulpit and appealed directly to the American people. They liked his message which brought pressure down on Congress. They gave a little. Reagan got his tax cuts. The top marginal rate went from 70% down to 28% by the time he left office. The result? The economy boomed. They call it the Decade of Greed. Because we were very materialistic and greedy. And people lived well.
Yes, but at what cost? That’s what the Left always says to refute Reaganomics. What they deride as trickle-down economics. They point to military spending. They point to Reagan’s deficit spending. And the growing federal debt. The Left says this is what Reagan’s tax cuts have given us. Growth and prosperity at the expense of future generations. Which is perhaps the greatest lie of the 20th century. But because the Left has repeated it so often, a lot of people accept it as fact. Even though the numbers refute this grand lie.
When Reagan entered office, federal tax receipts were $517 billion. When he left office in 1989, federal tax receipts were $991 billion. This is an increase of 91.7%. Or, to look at in another way, tax receipts in 1989 were 1.9 times the amount they were in 1980. That’s almost double. So, despite the great lie of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts did NOT cause deficits or increase the debt. Cuts in the tax rates brought MORE money into the federal treasury. Excessive federal spending caused the deficits. Federal spending increased from $590.9 billion in 1980 to $1,143.7 billion in 1989. That’s a 93.6% increase. Spending, too, almost doubled. In other words, spending increased 1.9% more than tax receipts by the end of Reagan’s second term. Washington was awash in money. They just spent it faster than it came in.
Blame the excessive spending on Cold War defense spending or domestic spending. The point is moot. Because it doesn’t change the fundamental truth that Reagan’s tax cuts INCREASED federal tax receipts. Or the lesson learned that tax cuts stimulate the economy. Anyone saying otherwise is lying and trying to revise history.
Wither on the Vine
The Reagan decade ended prosperously. Reaganomics were a success. Which was a threat to those with a vested interest in Big Government. But people liked Reagan. And only agreed to vote for George H.W. Bush when he made the infamous ‘read my lips – no new taxes’ campaign pledge. But Bush was no Reagan. He wasn’t as conservative. Or as charismatic. He couldn’t sell conservative America (center-right) his less than conservative policies (center-left). The Left, seeing he was no Reagan, maneuvered him into a position favorable to them on the deficit. The Republicans wanted to cut spending. The Democrats, of course, wanted to raise taxes. And with the Democrats in control of the House, he caved. He raised taxes. And when he did, he became a one-term president. The American people were so angry when he reneged on his ‘read my lips – no new taxes’ pledge, the third party candidate in the 1992 presidential campaign, Ross Perot, got 18.9% of the popular vote. No third party candidate did better. Exit polling shows he drew equally from both Bush and Clinton, though only 20% of his voters were liberal. The rest were conservatives and moderates. Perot brought a carnival atmosphere to the campaign. Charts and props made for good TV. This spectacle, though, drew critical attention away from Clinton’s past. Parts of which moderates would have found objectionable.
Clinton ran as a centrist. He lied. As liberals are wont to do during a campaign in a center-right country. Once in office, he swung to the left. The American people were angry. As people are wont to be when lied to. At the 1994 midterm elections, the people spoke. And gave both houses of Congress to the Republicans. Newt Gingrich became the Speaker of the House. He co-authored the Contract with America which was a Republican pledge to return America to a conservative path. It appealed to the American people. It’s what swept the Republicans into power. And it scared the Left. So they attacked it. Called it the Contract on America. And they attacked Newt Gingrich. With a vengeance.
In 1995, Gingrich discussed an alternative to Medicare. Number crunchers projected Medicare (and Social Security) to go into the red a decade or two out. Medicare (and Social Security) is a big federal expenditure and a political third rail. The Left uses the elderly as political pawns whenever they can. Because that’s what Big Government does. Get people dependent on Big Government and then scare the hell out of them by saying the Right wants to take their benefits away. Gingrich was discussing high-deductible health insurance plans and tax free Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). The MSAs included an annual federal subsidy for seniors. The plan would be appealing to seniors, Gingrich thought, because they could get better health care coverage with a private plan. The MSAs and the federal subsidies would make it affordable. Better care without paying more. Who wouldn’t want that? Once people made this choice voluntarily, they would move out of Medicare into a private plan. Those comments in 1995 included this:
What do you think the Health Care Financing Administration is? It’s a centralized command bureaucracy. . . . Now, we don’t get rid of it in round one because we don’t think that that’s politically smart and we don’t think that that’s the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it’s going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it — voluntarily.
Wither on a vine? Talk about a hanging softball. There was no way the Democrats weren’t going to whack that one out of the park. It quickly became ‘Medicare benefits’ and NOT the inefficient ‘centralized command bureaucracy’ that was going to wither on the vine. The Left ran with it. Another grand lie. Repeated it at nauseam. And scared the seniors. Gingrich’s days were numbered. And Clinton had a new enemy to demonize. Which came in handy when no one wanted his policies.
The Lies that Keep on Giving
Big Government depends on getting as many people dependent on government as possible. Medicare (and Social Security) is one program that does this very well. And when Gingrich dared to threaten it, they destroyed him. With a grand lie. Like the grand lie that tax cuts stimulate deficits, not the economy. Perpetuating these lies enables unsustainable government spending. Threatens the future of all Americans. And the longer it takes for the truth to come out, the deeper the hole we dig ourselves into.
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