By Sara Murray
CINCINNATI—Mitt Romney said Saturday that his party had fallen short on its fiscal promises even as he campaigned alongside a top Republican congressional leader.
“We’re going to finally have to do something that Republicans have spoken about for a long time and for a while we didn’t do it. When we had the lead, we let people down,” Mr. Romney told a crowd in this important swing state. “We need to make sure” they are not let down again. “I will cut the deficit and get us on track to a balanced budget.”
While Mr. Romney regularly promises to whip the budget into shape, he rarely says that his fellow Republicans have fallen short.
Some of the Republican congressional leaders might just grumble about Governor Romney’s statement, but his statement is exactly the message that the TEA Party was sending in 2010. It was the activism of the TEA Party and those who agreed with them that won the elections in 2010, and it was that grassroots movement which has given the Republican Party another chance after the disasters of 2006 and 2008. And let me be clear about this: we deserved the electoral disaster of 2006. The Republicans had complete control of the Congress, and the White House, and they spent more and more and more. The Republican “revolution” of 1994 was one in which the Republican congressional candidates, led by then Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA), promised to cut taxes and cut federal spending. Due to the presence of President Bill Clinton, they were unable to get any tax cuts passed, but President Clinton couldn’t spend more than was appropriated, and the Republicans did manage to get spending cut. They managed to get total federal spending down from the 20.6% of GDP it had been in FY1995 (the last budget passed by the 93rd Congress, which was controlled by the Democrats, to 18.2% in FY2000 and FY2001,1 and that led to a balanced federal budget.
But the Republicans let spending grow again after President Bush was inaugurated. Some of that was unavoidable, after the September 11th disaster, but much of it was not. The Republicans of the 104th Congress reduced entitlement spending, with the 1996 Welfare Reform Act; the Republicans of the 108th Congress greatly expanded entitlements with Medicare Part D. By FY2006, total federal outlays reached 20.1% of GDP, and though that came down to 19.7% of GDP in FY2007, it was still far, far, far too high. The Republicans ran on cutting taxes and cutting spending,2 and, very unfortunately, kept half of their promises. By 2006, though a lot of us were disappointed with the Republicans, but knew that the Democrats would be far, far worse when it came to spending too much money, we were outnumbered by those who figured that the Democrats couldn’t be worse. The Republicans lost control of the Congress because they deserved to lose control of the Congress.
Those of us who, in 2006, stuck with the GOP because we believed that the Democrats would prove far worse were soon proved right by events: in FY2008, the first budget passed by the new Democrat-controlled 110th Congress spent 20.8% of GDP at the federal level, a higher level than under any of the Republican-controlled Congresses from 1995 through 2006. But being proved right was cold comfort, as the massive over-spending caused the federal deficit and the national debt to soar. Senator Barack Hussein Obama (D-IL), who roundly condemned the huge rise in the deficit and debt under President Bush, was elected to succeed President Bush, but once he became President he started exploding the deficit and the debt far beyond anything done under President Bush; the deficit has exceeded a trillion dollars every year that Mr Obama has been in the White House, and the national debt has increased more in President Obama’s 3½ years in office than in all eight years under President Bush. The Democrats had a rare chance to take the Republican’s poor stewardship of the budget from FY2002 through FY2007, and completely undo any Republican reputation for fiscal conservatism, and cement the Democrats’ majority status for a decade; instead they made the Republicans’ FY2002 through FY2007 budgets look (almost) responsible and respectable.
And this is where Governor Romney is right. Today’s Republican Party is very different from the GOP of 2006. Many of the big spenders lost their seats to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008, and more were sent packing by Republican primary voters in 2010. Mitt Romney can make a real difference here, by pushing the conservative, responsible economic message he has been giving us all along, and sticking with it as President!
He is right to note that the Republicans have not always lived up to their promises, because it is true and everybody knows that it is true. In shining the light of truth about President Obama’s and the Democrats’ failed record, truth demands that he tell the truth about past Republican failures as well . . . and tell us how these things are going to be changed. The grassroots and TEA Party primary voters got the process started, and a real, solid, austere and conservative budget plan shows us the direction in which Mr Romney intends to take us, and that is the direction in which we need to go.
- This and all budget figures in this article are from President Obama’s FY2013 proposed Federal Budget, Table 1.2—Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-) as Percentages of GDP: 1930–2017. ↩
- Though Governor George W Bush (R-TX) ran only on cutting taxes; he stated that the tax cuts would generate enough revenue to allow for small spending increases. ↩