Receipts during the Reagan years increased by $310 billion and by $870.8 billion under Mr. Clinton. This chart show a sharp and steady increase in revenue under Mr. Clinton which may have helped him return us to fiscal responsibility.
Two conservative myths bite the dust in this category. First, tax increases do NOT decrease revenue and tax cuts do not increase revenue more than tax increases. Conservatives also argue Mr. Reagan doubled revenue. This is NOT correct.
In 1993 President Clinton signed into law his economic plan which called for $250 billion in tax increases and $250 billion in spending cuts. Every [R]epublican in both Houses of Congress voted against the legislation. However, after [R]epublicans took control of congress in 1995 they didn't repeal the tax increases. This fact alone suggest very strongly that their first vote was pure politics and they really didn't want to balance the budget. That vote along with the tax cuts they passed under Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush suggest very strongly they use the government purse to buy power.
You'll note that there's nothing really new about the "party of no". And what about those two myths?
When you think about it, they were always absurd. If lowering taxes axiomaticaly raises revenues, then why not cut them to zero? That should solve everything, right?
These myths were initially sold on the basis of the Laffer Curve, which I hope to be touching on again later this weekend. The Laffer Curve makes a valid, but limited point--that it's possible to reach a point of diminishing returns where the tax rate is so high that government revenues will fall if the rate goes any higher, because the taxes stifle economic activity. (Or, more realistically, spur increasing rates of tax evasion.) However, no one has ever determined what that point of diminishing returns is. Not a problem for conservatives. But a big problem when you run into reality, as the chart above so clearly shows.
As a geek, I'm happy to have a discussion about what's wrong with the Laffer Curve argument. But as a political realist, I know that you have to reach people who don't want to listen to reason. The historical record is lot harder to explain away than any mere argument, no matter how solid the argument might be. So repeat the record ad nauseum.
Next, the site presents those same underlying figures as a percentage of GDP:
As a percent of the economy receipts grew under Mr. Clinton and shrank under Mr. Reagan. When one considers Mr. Reagan promised a balanced budget in four years, but instead gave us the largest deficits in US history (until Mr. Bush) not only was it a broken promise, but these charts and those that follow disassemble many if not all of what conservatives say they stand for.
Conservatives, like Reagan did not believe in a balanced budget. The deficits created under Mr. Reagan are nothing more than future taxes plus interest. A reasoned individual would never give the present generation tax cuts while saddling the next with massive tax increases. But, this is exactly what Mr. Reagan and his conservative allies in Congress did.
It's important to understand that higher receipts gave us the massive surpluses, not less spending. Also, more growth in the economy didn't give us higher receipts since both presidents gave us about the same amount of growth. Two more conservative theories bite the dust.
There's a slight problem with this part of the commentary, however:
A reasoned individual would never give the present generation tax cuts while saddling the next with massive tax increases.
Reagan never intended to saddle the next generation with massive tax increases. Massive cuts to government was what he was aiming for. He couldn't get them directly, because even a majority of conservatives didn't want that. But if he made things bad enough then "responsible" Democrats would do the cutting for him, provided they could be scared into not even considering raising taxes. Of course, you can't actually be responsible and fearful at the same time. But you sure can pretend to be.
Next the site presents a graph of government outlays in billions of dollars:
Spending during both presidencies was about the same. Mr. Reagan increased spending by $386.3 billion while Mr. Clinton increased spending by $379.3 billion. However, Mr. Clinton was forced to spend far more money to finance the debt than Mr. Reagan. When Mr. Reagan began his term we were spending only $112 billion a year to finance the debt. In 2000, Mr. Clinton had to spend $225 billion. See Interest on the Debt. On the other hand, Mr. Reagan had the luxury of spending on whatever programs he wanted (since the deficits didn't really matter to him), including the biggest pork program in the government...the US military.
Not much to add to that, except that things are a lot clearer if you look at these same figures as a percentage of GDP:
The striking difference between the two presidents can be seen here. Mr. Reagan began his presidency on a spending spree, increasing spending as a percent of the economy every year through 1985 (the year after his reelection). For the rest of his term spending declined. It should be noted Iran/Contra broke in late 1986 and the [R]epublicans lost control of the Senate in the same year.
So a [R]epublican president and congress gave us massive spending and our highest deficits for six years, but spending was dramatically cut after the [D]emocrats regained control of the Senate in 1987.
Spending under Mr. Clinton declined every year.
I just want to add one layer of additional detail to the above account. Two things should be noted. First, the Democrats recaptured the Senate in 1986, despite the fact Robert Parry's initial reporting on the Iran/Contra scandal was ignored by the rest of the DC press corps. The story didn't re-emerge until it was surfaced in a Middl East paper after the election. Second, a major reason the Democrats regained control was a massive voter-registration drive carried out by Jesse Jackson among Southern blacks. Democrats netted an eight-seat gain that year, knocking off seven GOP incumbents, of whom four were from the South: Jeremiah Denton (R-AL), Paula Hawkins (R-FL), Mack Mattingly (R-GA), James Broyhill (R-NC).
[Section Updated: h/t to Obamamama in comments]
The final chart & commentary I'll include from this taste of what's on the site is budget deficits/surpluses as a percentage of GDP. Since deficits & surpluses represent changes in debt level, this chart relates directly to the earlier charts I've presented of debt-to-GDP ratios. The chart title's neglect surpluses--which Clinton produced for the first time in decades--is misleading. The line going up means deficits are going down--and eventually into surplus.
Deficits as a percent of our economy shrank every year under Mr. Clinton and as you can see from the chart never recovered from the Reagan spending spree and tax cuts in the 1980's. Any evidence Mr. Reagan was for less government or a balanced budget can not be found in the facts. Mr. Reagan spoke of both, but delivered the opposite.
Oddly enough, Mr. Clinton was attacked by conservative [R]epublicans for his spending programs. All one has to do is review the deficits under both presidents to see which party and which president wanted more government and more taxes (deficits are future taxes plus interest).
Deficits as a percent of gdp peaked in 1985 and fell every year after under Mr. Reagan, while under Mr. Clinton deficits as a percent of the economy fell eight years in a row.
By the time [R]epublicans got around to passing the balanced budget plan in 1997 for fiscal year 1998, the deficit was almost gone. Anyone attempting to give them credit for the balanced budget is sadly mistaken. Their five-year plan calls for our first balanced budget in 2002 ( a year Mr. Bush has once again returned us to deficits). Their plan was only five years off. Our first balanced budget occurred in 1998.
Conservative/GOP rhetoric on budget matters has been so dominant--so unified and all-pervasive, precisely according to the model of hegemonic struggle--that it's utterly buried the basic facts pointed out above. Republicans switch directions on budget matters the way a world-class running back switches directions on a 50-yard TD run. They don't so much contradict themselves overtly (though they do do that), so much as they take up entirely different themes, depending most of all on who's in the White House, but also on the short-term goals of the moment, regardless of how they fit into the long-term strategy. On whatever theme they choose to pick up, they do so with massive uniformity and echo-chamber effects, so as to totally dominate the terms of discussion, and stifle the very possibility of meaningful debate.
That's hegemony, baby. And this little website is a concentrated little arsenal of some very basic info for fighting back with.