The ‘tax and spend’ label is one that has saddled the Democratic Party for several decades, certainly for as long as I have been closely following politics, which is going on over 30 years. It is a label that is particularly closely associated with the Democrat Party of today, and many polls show it will be a major issue in the upcoming presidential, as well as congressional elections.
It is therefore an important matter to consider, especially for Democrats who wish to retain control of the Senate and the Presidency. According to recent polls, concern about deficit spending and the national debt is a major issue among voters, and if the Democrats do not take some measures before the next elections to at least slightly rid themselves of the ‘tax and spend’ label, I believe it will have an adverse effect on their re-election chances.While the tax and spend label is not one that strictly applies only to Democrats (as there are a fair share of big spending/taxing Republicans as well), I do believe that the Democrats have done more than enough to rightly take ownership of the label. The best way to illustrate this is by quickly reviewing the recent actions, policies and positions of both the Republican and Democratic Parties when they held power. A good reflection of the basic differences in the philosophies of the two parties regarding taxes and spending can be demonstrated by comparing the actions of the most recent Republican and Democratic Presidential Administrations.For example, when you compare the spending record of President Bush, a Republican, and that of Democratic President Obama you can see stark differences. The deficit in the first three years of the Obama administration will total 28.3 percent of GDP, versus 6.3 percent the last three years President Bush was in the White House. Moreover, according to the economist Lucy Hunt, “In the three years 2009, 2010, 2011, US federal spending was an astounding $2.2 trillion more than in the three years ending 2008” during Bush’s term.
President Bush was not exactly a Republican who was known for his austere spending habits either. In fact, he was heavily criticized by some conservatives for his excessive spending. Nevertheless, the spending under his administration did not come close to that of President Obama and the Democratic controlled Congress. Another way to consider the excessive spending by the current Democratic Administration and leadership – if federal spending were held to the same level it was during President Bush’s last year in office, deficits likely would be eliminated in four years.
As one example of the Democrats inclination for spending and expanding government, President Obama pushed for and got passed the original $787 billion stimulus measure. A huge spending bill and major allocation of taxpayers money that the President and his fellow Democrats said was desperately needed and would create or save 3.5 million jobs, as well as keep unemployment under 8.0%. Instead, employment has dropped by 1.7 million jobs and the unemployment rate stands today at 9.1%. The ‘shovel ready’ jobs and increased employment that was promised from the massive spending bill has not materialized.
While President Obama and many of his fellow Democrats often first look to increased spending, higher taxes and bigger government as the answer to America’s ills; the Republican Party often sees it as the problem. I believe therein lies the basic philosophical difference between the two parties concerning taxing and spending. While not all Democrats are for more taxes and higher spending and not all Republicans are for lower taxes and lower spending, it does appear to be accurate as a general philosophy or belief system that Democrats are the ‘tax and spend’ party.
A manifestation of this can be seen in the rise of the Tea Party in U.S. politics, and the reaction of the two parties toward it. As a loose knit politically active organization, the primary position of the Tea Party is quite simple; for the government to reduce spending and reduce taxes. Although they support various other minor causes, the overriding concern of the Tea Party is to roll-back the size of government through reduced spending and reduced taxes. You would think that would be a position that both some Republicans, as well as some Democrats might identify with and support. However, that is certainly not the case.
While not all Republicans have aligned themselves with the Tea Party’s smaller government positions, many Republicans indeed have. Many prominent Republicans have spoken at their rallies and actively sought their support. The Tea Party’s call for smaller government seems to be a quite natural tie-in with the Republican Party’s basic philosophy and belief system. (I’m referring to the Republican Party’s philosophy, not all individual Republicans). The Democrat Party, on the other hand, has whole-heartedly and vehemently opposed the Tea Party’s desire for smaller government. To my knowledge, not a single Democrat has publicly supported the Tea Party’s call for smaller government and reduced taxes.
In fact, Vice President Biden allegedly called the Tea party ‘terrorists’ for trying to push the government to cut spending during the recent negotiations to increase the debt ceiling. Former Speaker of the House and Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi went so far as to call them ‘Nazi’s.’ Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters recently stated the Tea Party ‘can go straight to hell.’ Other prominent Democrats have called Tea Party members ‘racist’, part of a ‘jihad’, and putting “a gun to the head of the American people.” A member of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus even went so far as to accuse Tea Party members of wanting to see blacks “swinging from a tree.”
The extreme, hate-filled and sometimes violent comments and imagery that Democrats have used to describe the Tea Party’s smaller government political activism is rather stunning, particularly in light of President Obama’s call for more civility in the nation’s political dialogue. The extreme disagreement and accusations many Democrats have made against the TeaParty and its call for smaller government certainly hasn’t helped the Democrats shed their label as the ‘tax and spend’ party. I would also suggest that it hasn’t helped their standing with moderates as well.
Obviously, the Democratic Party, from its leadership all the way down through its rank and file, sees the Tea Party political activism as a threat to their tax and spend ways. If not you would assume that at least some Democrats would support, or at least be open to the Tea Party’s positions for rolling back government spending and reducing taxes.
Moreover, President Obama and his fellow Democrats appear to have every intention of continuing their tax and spending ways if possible, despite massive losses in the midterm elections (3 Democrat wins – 66 losses), a series of setbacks in special elections including the recent New York special House election, and opposition from the now Republican-controlled House; President Obama and his Administration appear committed to more spending and tax hikes (or “revenue enhancements” as the President now likes to call them). Even a historic lowering of the U.S. credit rating has not deterred President Obama and his fellow Democrats from pushing for more spending and taxes.
As an example of the Democrats ingrained tax and spend habits; despite growing concerns over deficit spending and the national debt, last January President Obama submitted a budget that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would add $9.5 trillion over 10 years to the then current $13.4 trillion national debt. The proposed budget’s lack of fiscal restraint and unchecked spending certainly did not help the Democrats soften their tax and spend label. Obama’s budget was opposed by every single Republican member of the Senate, and soundly defeated.
The current Jobs Bill recently proposed by President Obama in his State-of-the-Union Address is also another great example of how the tax and spend philosophy is so ingrained in the Democrat Party’s belief system. The Presidents proposed Jobs Bill includes $447 billion in new spending, with some $421 billion of the spending being paid by American taxpayers through various tax increases. The underlying philosophy seems to be that the best way to create jobs is to increase taxes on those who are already productive and paying taxes. Then have the government take that money and spend it on those who aren’t productive and create temporary ‘shovel ready’ jobs – until the money runs out and until more money can be taxed and spent.In essence ‘taxing and spending’ is often the Democrats answer to America’s problems. The President’s new ‘tax and spend’ Jobs Bill is being heavily touted by members of the Presidents Democratic administration, by Obama himself, as well as Vice President Biden and others. Oddly however, despite repeated demands by the President for the Republican controlled House to ‘immediately pass’ his Jobs bill – there is no actual Obama Jobs bill. His proposed bill has not been introduced in Congress as yet. Not in the House. Not in the Senate.
In summary, while there are a fair share of Republicans who are big taxers and spenders, it is my contention that it is not the dominant position or inclination of the Republican Party. The Democrats, on the other hand, I believe have justly earned the ‘tax and spend’ label not just through their words, but also their actions. It’s often one of the first plays in their playbook to be implemented whenever politically possible. (As an example, just look at how the Democrats pushed through of the massive and unpopular ObamaCare government health care program.) Expanding the role of government through increased taxes and increased spending seems to be part of the Democrats primary basic belief system, while for Republicans, it generally has limited appeal.
We will find out soon enough whether this perception of the ‘tax and spend’ Democrats is accurate, and whether it is shared by many other Americans or not. Despite any contentions I’ve made here, the upcoming elections should objectively show to what degree American voters actually identify the Democratic Party with the ‘tax and spend’ label – the results will be interesting.
Mr. Dennis Feeheley has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. as a legislative assistant for U.S. Congressman Roy Dyson, as well as a consultant to the US Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus. He was educated at Oxford University where he was a member of the historic Oxford Union Debating Society. He also played on Oxford’s Rugby League team, and competed against the French national team in Paris. Mr. Feeheley has traveled to over 50 countries, including to 30 countries by the age of 21. He is the founder and former CEO of Primex International Trade Corp, and has degree in political science from George Washington University.
To read the Democrat’s viewpoint by Gene Gerth, go here.
The views of the article may or may not reflect those of Haps Magazine.
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