'Political Archaeologists' Find 'A Hell of an Empire'
by Charles Lemos, Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:16:22 PM EST
"For a bunch of small-government Republicans," one former denizen of the White House who has now stepped back inside for the first time in eight years, "these guys built a hell of an empire."
The political archaeologists in this case being former Clinton staffers returning to survey their once and future home only to discover an infrastructure of government several magnitudes greater even as the Republic which it governed lays in waste. The former Clinton staffers soon to be Obama staffers are dumbstruck by size of the enterprise they are about to inherit but I say wait until they uncover the not yet fully visible damage that the Republicans have wrought. I am sure as the Democrats regain the levers of power and bring to the full light of day all that has transpired since January 20, 2001, we will find ourselves in shock and disbelief if not outraged, perplexed and angered. Who knows the full extent of the damage that the Bush Administration has wrought?
As these once and future staffers are dumbstruck by the size of government, I am still dumbstruck by our national debt. The national debt stands now over at ten trillion dollars. When Reagan took office in 1981, the national debt stood at $995 billion. Twelve years later, by the end of George H.W. Bush's Presidency, it had exploded to four trillion dollars. It stood at under six trillion dollars when Clinton left office so not much of an uptick. Competence does matter, it seems. Grover Norquist and his ilk didn't drown government in a bathtub, they drowned it in debt.
And it has been a four decade long systematic assault to destroy government by spending it in oblivion. It may surprise you, as it did me, to learn that under President Eisenhower the highest marginal tax in the US was 91% on incomes of over $400,000. LBJ lowered it in 1964 but was forced to raise taxes again in 1968 to pay for the war and the Great Society. Still, the highest marginal tax rate in 1968 was 77% on incomes greater than $200,000. But the great assault on a progressive tax structure began under economic 'stewardship' of Ronald Reagan. Reagan cut the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest of Americans from 70% to 38% (just a reminder that Obama was called a socialist for wanting to up it back to 39.5%). The Republicans promised it would spur an orgy of investment and rocket the economy to new levels of production and prosperity. Instead, this "supply side economics" did the exact opposite, we got an orgy of greed and excess and saw the gains of the great compression eroded and erased. Reagan's tax cuts produced the deepest recession since the Great Depression. It's hard to for me to pick the single biggest mistake of the Republican era but I'd start by looking at their tax policies.
The full story of some rather shocked folks in today's New York Times. I wonder what shocks of discovery are yet to come from our 'hell of an empire'?
So what are your less than fond remembrances of the GOP era? What won't you miss?