Jason's Blog

Thanks republican party for the national debt

by on Apr.04, 2006, under General

I saw this graph, which explains the title of my post in most lurid detail:

Let’s just say that’s a very, VERY scary line. I have to ask – isn’t the republican party SUPPOSED to be fiscally responsible?? When did it become the party of spend-uber-gobs-of-money? What happened to sound financial planning and responsible use of wealth??? I can understand SOME jumps – but this is definitely over the top. *sigh* Definitely time for new leadership in this country!

Oh, had to add – thanks to Mike Miller for the graph (Mike’s a MLUG – Missouri Linux Users Group member).

7 Comments for this entry

  • tanya


    Clinton was democrat, which leads me to believe that the composition of congress is also vital during these periods.  And I can damn sure guarantee you we haven’t had a Republican majority in congress unbroken since Ford.

    And frankly, I find the Vietnam years misleading.  I’m not convinced this graph is all it’s chalked up to be.

  • Jason McIntosh

    First, glad to hear from yas Tanya – been a while since I’ve had the great commentary and debate on my blog that you bring in!  Good to see yas! 

    Anyways, I won’t doubt that this graph definitely doesn’t tell the whole story.  On the other hand, from what I’ve seen lately of Bush, there’s a massive problem with spending more money than we take in.  In the middle of a massive budget increase, we’ve decreased taxes.  I can’t see this as making any kind of financial sense.  His plan has always been to decrease taxes so that the economy would increase giving a greater increase in income.  I just don’t see much financial sense in this.  Now, I’m oversimplifying here, but am I wrong in your view in thinking that he is making huge financial mistakes? 

    With all of that said, I will say that there is a dependency on the economy.  A good economy of course leads to higher income, while a poor economy reduces income.  Further, the effects of 9/11 and other wars cannot be discounted.  However, I would also argue that we went through how many years of a cold war without any issues?  I don’t think all of our problems could, nor should be attributed to various wars and other issues.  If anything, I think we should have a national savings for such times… but I could debate that quite a bit more. 

    Let me continue instead by strongly agreeing that the composition of congress matters greatly – you are VERY right on that.  But, typically the President has a great deal of sway on that aspect of things.  Hmm, I need to find out what years in that graph were controlled by which party.  i.e. whether the house was republican and senate democrat during 1997 or something else.  Have to see if there’s an easy way to graph this.  But for now I will mention a few other quick thoughts (I don’t have time to do the research just yet). 

    Whether a house is democratic/republican is important, but is also heavily influenced by how popular a leader is – and Reagan was very popular.  So was Clinton.  As a result, I’d argue that they had a large influence on the actions congress undertook.  It’s a complex issue, but I’d argue that President is the primary “weathervane” of where things go in congress.

    Last, I’ll mention that SOME debt is good, from an economical standpoint, from what I remember of economics discussions.  However, I do think there are heavy limits on that, and we’re rapidly beyond those limits.  I DO think the tax breaks were a bad idea, from what I’ve seen.  I know for a fact that as much as I don’t like taxes, I’d still pay increased taxes even as I make more money, rather than have the nation go bankrupt.

    This gets kinda into the large business issue.  People on an individual basis are usually good at helping others as needed, donating time and energy and money to causes.  The problem is large corporations, who get a lot of these tax breaks and are able to find ways to use them, often contribute very little.  Instead of being responsible, most of these large businesses seem to be out to make money, with very little in the way of ethics or accountability other than to their shareholders or their bottom line.  I’d argue that the increase in large business’s helping push forward policies is as problematic as other factors, as they often can get politicians (both democrat and republican) to do things we as individual citizens do not want.

    A case in point is the corruption scandal going on right now – can’t think of the guys name – who was a lobbyist who made a deal with the feds in exchange for information.  I can’t help but be annoyed at how much personal wealth/power factors into decisions rather than ethics, future planning (come on, we’ve known about global warming as a real problem for how long?  And how long did it take to have politicians admit it as a problem?), as well as other issues.

  • Stephen

    The completely hypocritical christianists (as conservative Andrew Sullivan likes to call them) are quite thankfully rapidly outliving their usefulness. “Fiscal responsibility” and the current administration are quite diametrically opposed. This graph is but a smidgen of data that sheds light on completely uncontrollable and irresponsibly rampant spending, most of it under the complete bullshit that is “national security”. Wars aren’t cheap, and I would bet that this graph doesn’t even factor the true monetary cost into its equation.

    Most real fiscal conservatives are just now starting to realize this insanity, and hopefully most red states will as well, when they realize many things have to be cut to pay for it.

  • tanya

    I just think there are factors this graph doesn’t reveal, and that’s pretty much where I question it.  Starting with 1940 and moving on (as the graph shows), here’s the presidential party affiliation:

    Roosevelt (Democratic)

    Truman (Democratic)

    Eisenhower (Republican)

    Kennedy (Democrat)

    Johnson (Democrat)

    Nixon (Republican)

    Ford (Republican)

    Carter (Democrat)

    Reagan (Republican)

    Bush I (Republican)

    Clinton (Democrat)

    Bush II (Republican)

    (And this to me suggests that in American history we have a tendency to “kick out” one party after a maximum of 12 years in office – IE, Franklin/Truman (granted, Franklin’s 3 terms were unprecedented, I know), Reagan/Bush – so in short, I think next time around it’ll be a democratic victory in the presidency at least.)

    I have no clue if this holds true in Congress, but I believe it’s actually more rare for president and congressional majority to be of the same party affiliation – I think Truman had some issues with that, for instance, if I recall correctly.

    Other factors I’d look to right away:

    -Post WW2 with the Marshall Plan, we were doling out dollars to other countries, but the whole point of that was to keep the world economic system fairly stabilized, and I think this had an impact on our debt level over all – IE, kept us from amassing a debt.  Because what’s not on here is the fact that we were spending TONS of money on defense and stockpiling of nuclear weapons in the early Cold War period.

    Then, although this spending theoretically decreased during Detente, I read that we amassed something like $146 billion in national debt from 1967 to 1973 (height of Vietnam War) – which is why I find the relative “stability” of the national debt strange in this graph.  (Again, why I don’t put too much credence in what this graph tells because I think it’s too simplistic.)

    I’d point to Bush’s heightened defense campaigns in the 80s as the rise for the national debt then, along with tax cuts.  Really, this graph demonstrates that it was the REAGAN administration that created the most problems for the national debt – going from $2T to $4T doubled the debt, and then it only rises by $1T during the first Bush administration, raises again by just less than $1T under Clinton, and now under Bush II (currently) by $1.5T.

    (And under both Bushes we had middle east conflicts – Clinton had Kosovo, but that didn’t seem to amount to much in the larger scheme.)

    I actually tend to give presidential power a little less credence than a lot of folks I know do; while the president DOES hold a degree of power, I don’t think it’s as much power as is popularly conceived (but the president traditionally makes an easy scapegoat, especially when he’s brought into office on a slim margin and there’s no effective majority behind his presidency).

    Ooh, for what it’s worth, here’s party majority for senate:  http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/history/one_item_and_teasers/partydiv.htm

    Currently, of course, there’s a Republican Majority.  It looks like that’s been in place since early 2002, but prior to that was a Democratic majority (2001-2002), then it goes like this:

    1995-2001: Republican

    1987-1995: Democrat

    1981-1987: Republican

    1955-1981: Democrat

    (And it shows further back).

    Interesting to look at and think about it.  Thanks for posting this, because it does pose very interesting questions (to me) about the relationship between the president, congress, and and the people, etc.

  • tanya

    Id point to Bushs heightened defense campaigns in the 80s as the rise for the national debt then, along with tax cuts.

    Of course, I meant “Reagan” here.

    Also, for what it’s worth: your journal template is identical to my cousin’s.

  • Jason McIntosh

    A few notes on the debt clock’s accuracy up above:


    I’d look at that, as that’s the source for the clock (I’m actually just changed the URL to point to that instead).  Note also that the graph up above is “normalized” in that it takes into account inflation.  And, the data displayed there is built, from my understanding of the faq upon governmentally provided data. 

    Second, regarding some of the extenuating circumstances, well, I’d argue that there WAS a gas crunch in the early 80’s.  That’s when prices there were jumping big time, and it’s also the start of some other issues.  However, regardless of other considerations, I do think it’s surprising considering the output of this country, in goods and services, that we have any debt at all – what that means to me, is we’re spending WAYYY too much.  And, it looks like this really started with Reagan.  The problem is presidents of recent note look like they’re continuing this trend, other than the one democratic president we’ve had in the last 25 years.  That’s a bad sign to me.  Also note that yes, there were wars during the Bush presidencies, but also there were wars earlier on in our history that didn’t have a significant impact – why is it that the recent wars have had such an impact then??

    When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of fiscal responsibility.  Yes, if you’ve got a war, some debt is acceptable.  However, it shouldn’t be acceptable for very long.  It’s a very simple matter in my view – there is no excuse for spending money you don’t have.  We talk about budget cuts, and how it’s so hard to cut different things, but there is a LOT of pork right now, from what I’ve seen (I remember recently a $250 million bridge project in Alaska which would never be used??).  I think it’s really just overspending. 

    Next, let me say that I think the republican party of today is VERY different in some aspects than the republican party of the past.  Today, it seems more geared to power and control, than a reduced governmental influence and spending.  i.e. the republican party of the past was more about NOT letting the government have a huge level of control over peoples lives and their activities – something I’m fine with.  Today, the party is spending more, and doing more to interfere with peoples lives than ever before.  SO, I blame the “republican” party, but in many ways, I don’t think it’s a matter of party sometimes, but a matter of of who we elect for our representatives.  Overspending can be as bad on both sides, but consider who were the “leaders” during the times of overspending.

    I would point out though, that if we look at that graph and tie it in with the data you’ve provided, you can see that the Democrats really only controlled the senate at a few times – essentially in 1987-1995.  Additionally, saying “control” is relative, as the president DOES have veto power, and I don’t see more than 5 seats difference most times between the two parties.  Now, the house is a little different, as it’s more democrat controlled typically, but I’d also say some of this is a little irrelevant.  The spending is going up – mostly when republican presidents are in charge.  Yes, that means they’re the scapegoat, but it also is their responsibility to veto things, even things that might be good from one aspect, if there are things like pork or other spending problems in those bills.  With that in mind remember Bush has not vetoed a single item yet.  I do know Clinton did a LOT of vetoes.

    No matter what though – the debt is a MASSIVE problem, and needs fixing.  Tax breaks while increasing spending is NOT the way to fix debt.

  • tanya

    I think you and I agree, essentially, that national debt=bad.  However, I’m not convinced that it’s *necessarily* the fault of the republican party.  (not saying it couldn’t be entirely the republican party’s fault, but that it’s not NECESSARILY all their fault.)

    I’ve studied the Cold War and WW2, but I’m fuzzy on this aspect (but will bring it up anyway):  I think we had some income coming in from other countries’ war debts or the lend-lease program that may have offset national debt at midcentury; also, it was really a boom time – we were doing FANTASTICALLY from an economic standpoint and had a surplus.  I don’t think the Marshall Plan involved repayment, but i could be wrong on that (like I said, that’s not my strongest area).

    What I find interesting are questions like: is this national debt crisis unique to the US, or are other countries in a similar place?  IE, is this related to the global economy?

    I had more questions, but my comment was eaten and I’ll have to stick with this for now.

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