Who is McCain, Reagan?

In a recent interview in the Washington Times, McCain had this to say about the Bush years: “spending, the conduct of the war in Iraq for years, growth in the size of government, larger than any time since the Great Society, laying a $10 trillion debt on future generations of America, owing $500 billion to China, obviously, failure to both enforce and modernize the [financial] regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century, failure to address the issue of climate change seriously.”

McCain is frantically trying to distance himself from Bush the younger. Keep in mind that he would like to be compared to Ronald Reagan.

Lets examine some of McCain’s comments:

“laying a 10 trillion debt on future generations of Americans” – It was John McCain’s hero, Ronald Reagan who laid the foundation for the Republican tradition of massive deficit spending.  Zfacts.com has a short analysis of the National Debt that illustrates the point.  Earlier in the campaign, when asked how he planned to balance the budget, McCain said he would follow the example of Reagan, leaving out the small detail that the federal deficit tripled under Reagan.

In an detailed analysis of the US National Debt, Steve McGourty demonstrates that when Reagan took office, the percentage of debt relative to GDP was at 33%.  In his 8 years as President, he managed to grow the debt to 51.9% of GDP, a 64% increase.  Since 1989, the only period during which the debt decreased occurred under the Clinton administration.  By the time Clinton left office, debt as a percentage of GDP dropped 10%.

…”growth in the size of Government (under Bush has been) larger than any time since the Great Society.”  What he didn’t say was that revenue during the Johnson years exceeded spending.  As McGourty shows, all Democratic Administrations from Johnson forward took in more in revenue than they spent.  The reverse is true for all the Republican administrations since 1969.  Under Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II spending exceeded revenue.  McCain should be citing the Great Society, or the Clinton administration as a model for responsible fiscal policies.

On the point of  “failure to both enforce and modernize the [financial] regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century” remember that McCain has been against regulatory policies his entire career, even saying he is “fundamentally a deregulator.”  But now, amid turmoil, McCain turns to regulation.

And finally, he bashed Bush for “failure to address the issue of climate change seriously.”  What has McCain done for climate change?  His first order of business was to select a running mate who believes the human impact on global warming is overstated.  In an article on Bloomberg.com Edward Chen points out that McCain has made global warming a priority, but his voting record on environmental issues has been abysmal – voting for pro-environment legislation only 25% of the time.  He favors reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 65%.  For the record, Barack Obama’s plan calls for reducing emissions by 80%.  Which plan takes a more serious approach to global warming?

McCain is no Bush – ok, I’ll give him that, even though his voting record suggests otherwise.  But he wants to be compared to Ronald Reagan, so here is what we could expect were McCain to fashion his policies after his hero: massive defense and deficit spending; a ballooning national debt; a dismissive approach to environmental concerns – a la Sarah Palin – see Reagan on the Environment; more deregulation and questionable foreign policy dealings – remember the Iran-Contra affair?

Who is McCain?

2 Responses

  1. “all Democratic Administrations from Johnson forward took in more in revenue than they spent. The reverse is true for all the Republican administrations since 1969. Under Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II spending exceeded revenue.”

    No … really? It doesn’t make sense then when people say they vote Republican because they’re against big gov., and against big gov. spending.

  2. In my view, a big spending government is big government. And a government that spends more than it has is bad government. I wonder what Republicans mean by big government. If they mean against big spending, then they would have to be critical of 12 years under Bush, 8 under Reagan and the Ford and Nixon years – when we spent more than we took in. This is due both to tax policy (tax cuts) and the lack of fiscal discipline (deficit spending). Clinton adhered to the concept of “pay as you go”. The Republicans have never subscribed to the idea that if you cut taxes you also have to cut spending. The McGourty piece has an interesting graph about midway down showing revenue vs spending from Johnson on. The Clinton graph showed revenue significantly greater than spending. McGourty argues that Clinton’s tax policy which benefited the middle class helped stimulate the economy to generate revenue, new jobs and wealth, unlike the Republican theory of “trickle down” – a seductive slogan (and the Republicans are masters of slogans) but it is a myth. What we have seen is a concentration of wealth at the top and a widening of the gap between the haves and have nots. There’s no trickling going on, no dripping – not a drop. Maybe we need Joe the Plumber to unclog the drain.

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