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Kevin Buck: Elephants try to forget recent history

Democratic Voices

Posted: May 8, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2012 2:00 a.m.

There appears to be a strange misconception floating through the Republican Party. For some reason, members believe that history began on Jan. 20, 2009. This is very convenient for Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, because it means that everything bad happening in the world and everything that prolongs the suffering of the American poor and middle class is President Barack Obama’s fault.

That is no small advantage when you are trying to defeat an incumbent president. Unfortunately for Romney and the GOP, there is also a reality-based world out there, and despite wishful thinking and political denial, the past is not going away.

Recently, one of my long-time conservative correspondents wrote that Obama will not be running against George W. Bush in 2012, but I believe he is wrong. As much as conservatives would like to forget the worst president in modern history, his legacy still hangs over America like a pall of L.A. smog on a hot August day.

If I were a Republican politician, I would do exactly what Romney is doing: put Bush into the memory hole and pretend that he was never the head of the Republican Party. Nobody wants that political albatross around his or her neck.

However, Democrats will not allow that to happen because, to understand Obama’s presidency and his case for re-election, the economic Armageddon he inherited from Bush has to be taken into account. So let’s hop into the Wayback Machine and travel to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

In 1980, then-President Ronald Reagan introduced America to supply side/trickledown economics, or as it was called by his own vice president, “voodoo economics.” The theory was that if you gave the wealthiest 1 percent of people and corporations huge tax breaks, the resulting explosion of economic growth would balance budgets, create surpluses and maybe even bring unicorns back to life.

In reality, not so much. Reganomics tripled the national debt. In just eight years, the United States racked up deficits equal to all the debt accrued in the entire 200 years before Reagan took office.

As always, I am sure to be reminded that it was the spendthrift Democrats in Congress at fault for the deficits, not the supply-side tax cuts and massive defense spending increases. But the bottom line is that Republican economic policy created record deficits.

In 1992, America finally handed the reins of power to a Democrat, President Bill Clinton. Two important things happened: First, the Clinton administration and the Democratic congress raised taxes to pre-Reagan levels without a single Republican vote. Then, after the Republicans won a majority in 1994, the White House and the new congress actually compromised on spending policies, and at the end of Clinton’s two terms, the budget was not only balanced, but a budget surplus was created.

This is what Bush inherited from his Democratic predecessor. In 2001, when he took office, the House and the Senate were still controlled by Republicans and their first act was to bring back the failed trickledown economic policies so beloved by conservatives.

Two massive tax cuts, heavily skewed to the wealthy, were passed. The results of the return to voodoo economics were that the balanced budget was gone in a year, the Bush administration doubled the national debt, millions of jobs were lost on his watch and the United States came within a McCain victory of being plunged into another depression.

I do not remember any Republicans wailing and whining about deficits during the Bush years. Nor did they ever hold the country hostage and put the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury in jeopardy during any of the seven times they voted to raise the debt limit during the Bush administration.

Besides the blatant hypocrisy of holding Obama to a higher standard than Republican presidents, the reason this is important in 2012 is that Romney’s economic plan is just trickledown on steroids.

Republicans are now blaming Obama for not quickly fixing the disaster created by their own economic policies. As much as they want us to forget who caused the meltdown in the first place, that is not going to happen; Romney will have Bush and his failures shadowing him from Labor Day to Election Day.

It is going to be a momentous campaign. The two candidates present a clear choice for the voters. For once, Ralph Nader is wrong; there is a difference in the two parties, and America will choose between them in November.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” runs Tuesday and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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