Under Trump, the deficit has ballooned, exploding a GOP mythRoundup
tags: economic history, deficits, Julian Zelizer, Economy, Trump
Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, and author, with Kevin Kruse, of the new book "Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974."
As we approach the 2020 election, we will likely hear the familiar refrain from Republicans claiming their party will keep the government's books balanced while "socialist" Democrats will wreak havoc on the nation's financial stability.
But President Trump isn't the first Republican to break the mold -- he is just one of a long line of Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan who have pushed for supply side tax policies, touting the idea that lower tax rates will boost economic growth. Throw in high rates of defense spending on top of that, and the delicate balance between taxes and spending is often thrown off kilter.
The main reason that the deficits keep growing under the GOP has to do with an insatiable appetite for regressive tax cuts, which have been at the heart of the conservative revolution since the 1970s. While it is true that the conservative movement has been about many things-- ranging from culture wars to defense spending—the drive to cut taxes for wealthier Americans and business has been its heart and soul. Supply side economics offered an intellectual justification for slashing taxes based on the promise that over the long term they would generate higher revenue and bring down the deficit.
But deficits have grown under each Republican president since Reagan. Reagan, George W. Bush and now Trump have all pushed for regressive tax policies -- in which the average tax rate decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases-- which have severely aggravated the nation's fiscal imbalance. The only exception was President George H.W. Bush who spent an enormous amount of political capital to push for a deficit reduction package in 1990, which cost him much support among conservative Republicans.
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