Big Spending Republicans Suddenly Wary of Deficits
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is scheduled to hold a press conference today to decry the Democrats’ stimulus package “and the trillions of dollars being added to an already $10 trillion debt,” as his statement puts it.
This is an old argument, of course. The GOP has long-fancied itself the party of fiscal responsibility, which is strange because the image has no basis in reality.
Consider the following: When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, the federal debt was about $908 billion, according to Treasury Department figures. Over the next eight years, that figure rose to $2.6 trillion, representing more unpaid spending than the previous seven presidents combined could fritter — all in the name of smaller government, of course.
By 1992, President George H.W. Bush had bumped that figure to $4.1 trillion, to which Bill Clinton added another $1.6 trillion by 2000 — meaning that Bush the elder racked up about the same amount of debt in four years that Clinton did in eight.
Then the real spending started.
Under the eight-year tenure of George W. Bush, the country accumulated another $4.3 trillion in unpaid bills. For roughly six of those eight years, Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, meaning they wrote and approved the budget bills that dictated federal spending.
The result? Well, in 2007, roughly nine percent of federal outlays — or $237 billion — went to pay the interest on the debt alone. That’s nearly one-third of the cost of the economic stimulus bill moving through Congress right now.
We know that McConnell will blame the Democrats for their reckless spending and failure to tilt the stimulus bill more heavily toward tax cuts. It would be nice also to hear an apology for his party’s own binge.