Home / Culture and Society / Back To The Future, Or Do Voters Want To Party Like Its 1999?

Back To The Future, Or Do Voters Want To Party Like Its 1999?

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Politicians love to try to stir voters’ imaginations with lofty talk about elections being about our future.

There’s certainly some truth to that. But the choice voters must make in just a few short weeks is really, in some real sense, about the past.

Specifically, do they want our economy to look more like the 1990s, or instead, like the decade that followed them?

The ’90s, of course, were big boom years for a wide cross-section of Americans. The economy in the 2000s, meanwhile, just sort of sputtered along lamely, until the bottom fell out entirely in 2008. If you didn’t start the “aughts” being rich, you probably didn’t do terribly well.

Someone once said that when Bill Clinton was president, all the things that went up are supposed to go up (GDP, job creation, wages, and the stock market) and all the the things that went down are those that are supposed to go down (unemployment, interest rates, poverty and the federal budget deficit). But for George W. Bush, the reverse was true. The things that are supposed to go up actually went down and the things that are supposed to go down, went up.

President Obama and the Democrats are trying to replicate the Clinton era, which was the longest economic expansion in peacetime ever in American history. The GOP, meanwhile, would prefer to keep the Bush years going.

The Republicans aren’t exactly going around campaigning with placards adorned with the face of our 43rd president. But their top economic priority is to extend tax cuts enacted under Bush, especially those for the top 2 richest percent of Americans.

Obama’s own treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, spelled out the choice in a speech this summer in Washington.

“In the 1990’s, sound fiscal policies led to large surpluses and important investments in the middle class, which helped contribute to a period of strong growth and job creation,” Geither said, before describing the fiscal failures of the subsequent Bush years.

“Washington changed course, abandoned the basic disciplines of budgeting, and borrowed to finance expensive tax cuts skewed towards the most affluent,” he said of the Bush era. “The result was a huge increase in our debt burden, relatively slow job growth, and stagnation in incomes for the middle class.”

Republicans like to talk about reining in the federal deficit, but extending the tax cuts for the richest Americans would just blow a $700 billion hole in it.

On the other hand, under Obama’s preferred strategy, the middle class would keep their tax cut and taxes would rise only on those wealthiest taxpayers — kind of like just how it was when Bill Clinton sat in the Oval Office.

Back then, I seem to recall the rich still doing pretty darn well, and so did most of the rest of us, too.

Republicans like to boast that their anti-tax agenda is the real key to creating jobs. They’ve also hammered Obama mercilessly for his economic stimulus program which conservatives like to claim has failed.

Except the exact opposite is true. Yes, unemployment remains high — too high. And it’s been more difficult to get it under control than many folks thought even just a year ago.

But even with all of that true, more jobs have been created this year under Obama than during the entire eight years of the Bush administration. And, no, before someone cries “socialism,” the jobs we’re talking about are private sector jobs — not government employment.

Please remember that it even took Clinton a while to get our economic engine moving again after the recession he inherited. But once it did, boy was it hummin’.

Or we could go back to the conservative voodoo economics promised by Republicans, which drove our economy so far into a ditch that it needed bailouts to get out.

That’s the choice voters have to make this year.

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About Scott Nance

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Arch –

    Who started the illegal Iraq war? Who pushed through Medicare Part D? Who pushed through the largest tax cuts in history while INCREASING government spending?

    NOT THE DEMOCRATS. Those were ALL fully supported and pushed through by Bush and the Republicans, NONE of them were offset by spending cuts…and EACH ONE cost more than Obama’s stimulus package.

    But I understand why you disagree…because conservatives generally seem to think that owning up to what they did wrong is a sign of weakness.

  • Arch Conservative

    “the mess that Bush took EIGHT years to create.”

    From 2006 on Bush had the help of a Democrat congress.

    Also…..I don’t know if anyone’s told you but the expiration date on your blame Bush mantra has expired.

    Pretty sad when the ONLY defense of the current president is to bring up the former president.

    I guess if the Republicans win big at the polls in a few weeks it will only be because the American people, the same ones that elected Obama and the Dem congress, are all of a sudden now too stupid to comprehend the genius that is Barack Obama.

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

  • Glenn Contrarian

    C-shop –

    it takes real “talent” to triple the NATIONAL DEBT in your first four months in office doing what your unpopular predecessor did at the end of his term, only BIGGER.

    It takes real COURAGE to check the facts to realize that BUSH (and not Obama) submitted the budget for 2009, that the FIRST budge that Obama was responsible for was the 2010 budget…and that it is highly unlikely that anyone would be able to correct in a year or two the mess that Bush took EIGHT years to create.

    Did the Bush administration try to pay for the Afghan and the (completely illegal) Iraq wars? No. For the first time in American history, he decided to cut taxes so that the federal government would have to borrow even more money from China et al to pay for those wars.

    Did the Bush administration try to pay for Medicare Part D? No.

    Did the Bush administration make budgetary cuts to match the largest-in-American-history tax cuts that he pushed through? No. Instead, he INCREASED federal spending while slashing the taxes that might have paid for that increased spending.

    And the Iraq war and Medicare Part D and the Bush tax cuts EACH wound up costing the American taxpayer far more than Obama’s stimulus package (which was one-third tax cuts, if you’ll remember)…because EACH of them added more to the federal debt than anything Obama did.

    C-shop, it’s funny how eager you are to make accusations against Obama without checking to see where those accusations actually belong. Instead of complaining about how long it’s taking the Democrats to get us out of the mess the Republicans got us into, I’d really like to see you for just once hold your guys responsible for what they did.

    P.S. – GM’s making a profit this year…but if the Republicans had had their way, GM would have gone bankrupt and two million more people would’ve been out of a job. Think about that.

    P.P.S. – Do you know anyone who has suffered a death in the family due to the Iraq war? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children died in the Iraq war. It was an ILLEGAL war started on false pretenses…and you can thank Bush and Cheney for it. But are you or any of your fellow conservatives going to hold him responsible? No, you won’t…because that would take the ability to stand up and say “We were wrong”…and that’s something that conservatives almost never do.

  • Arch Conservative

    Screw Harry Truman………why not Barry Goldwater?

    A dead Barry Goldwater would be light years better than a living Obama.

    I have yet to hear any mainstream politician on either side of the aisle discuss at length what the loss of manufacturing jobs has done to this nation. None of them deserve our support or our votes.

    The best interest of the nation and Democracy in general are that neither one party control the White House, the House and the Senate.

  • Baronius

    Well put, Doug. The years of the Republican Congress saw steady declines in the deficit, with the exception of the early years of the Iraq War. The budgets produced in the mid-2000’s had deficits again, but the deficits were diminishing. The budgets produced after 2006, well, “disaster” does seem to be the best word.

  • Harry Truman for President in 2012! He’s dead, but that does not seem to be a Constitutional impediment.


  • Doug Hunter

    I like the 90’s model. We had Bill Clinton as president, a good figurehead to ‘care about the people’ and make the fell gooders feel good about themselves and a Republican congress passing good legislation for the country. We will have that again after next year.

    Since the democrats took over congress in 2006 it has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster.

  • Thanks. I hadn’t seen those talking points in at least a day. Not sure how it applies to #3 but it’s good to know you can barf those up without adding anything original if such a thing is ever needed. Wait by your phone and someone will be in touch.

  • Cannonshop

    #3 Obama already CLAIMED to be a “Reformer”-his record of action, choices for office, extensive list of “Czars” to run departments unsupervised, spending habits, these are like taking bush, and injecting Bush with Meth, then turning him loose. (More of the same, only WORSE). Crank bush’s mistakes to 11, and you have the Obama Administration.

    it takes real “talent” to triple the NATIONAL DEBT in your first four months in office doing what your unpopular predecessor did at the end of his term, only BIGGER.

    He was elected on a platform of reform, when he had no record of reform-and he has not ADDED to that record in a positive way with the Insurance Company Guaranteed bill of Profits (Obamacare), additional bureaucracies answerable to no-one (Finance “Reform”), the buyout/bailout of GM and Chrysler (Nationalizing industries does NOT, in the long run, keep skilled workers employed-if it did, Lada would be a major automaker and the Soviets would have kicked our economic ass…)

    Sorry folks, you bought a guy who wrote two autobiographies after doing nothing of interest post-college… really, you did. The guy hasn’t done a single job successfully (besides being elected) since he was at Harvard.

    It takes a genuine Screw up to make Bush 1 look good.

  • zingzing

    ah, the line item veto…

  • “The choice is…between Obama and actual reform and recovery.”

    No it isn’t. It’s a choice between Obama and claims of reform. You have no idea what’s going to happen when anyone gets there and neither do they. Do you not remember why Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008?

  • Dave knows that the vast majority of Republicans elected this fall will be the same old crowd. A few will be Tea Party backed “reformers” — and more than a few of those are also religious nut jobs of the type he used to excoriate on these pages. “Pure” libertarians without social-issue extremist baggage will be quite rare in DC after the election.

    The Bush tax cut extension argument exposes hypocrisy and half-truths on both sides. I haven’t seen too many people willing to acknowledge this. [Extending the tax cuts for the wealthy will cost $700 billion; extending them for everyone else will cost about $3 trillion. That is, um, a rather big hole in the budget too.]

    Post-election, some of the fog of dumb political rhetoric may clear enough for some sensible policies to be enacted. I’m not exactly holding my breath for that, though.

  • Nice partisan puff piece, Scott. It would help if any of your conclusions were even halfway true.

    The choice is not between Clinton and Bush, it is between Obama and actual reform and recovery.

    Obama is not Clinton. Obama is Bush x2 with a bunch of really bad ideas added on top.

    And the new breed of candidates opposing the corporate owned Dems in Congress are not Bush either, they’re opposed to everything Bush and Obama stand for and want to see real reform and real fiscal responsibility from our government.

    So great try, but the falsehoods which underly your argument bring the whole thing tumbling down.