In the American political theatre, there is one simple fact that is predictable, never-ending, and irrefutable regardless of the party in power or state of the nation. It does not matter how many millions of Americans are out of work, what shape the economy is in, or the level of record corporate profits, Republicans claim cutting taxes for the super-rich creates wealth and jobs for Americans.
On April 16, 2001, then President George W. Bush said that, “Tax relief will create new jobs, tax relief will generate new wealth, and tax relief will open new opportunities.” If Bush’s remarks from 10 years ago sound familiar, it’s because Republicans are still parroting the fallacious notion that giving tax cuts to the wealthy is good for America. It is important to understand who George W. Bush was selling his snake-oil economic policy to, because the audience definitely benefitted from what is now known as the Bush tax cuts.
Bush was speaking to the United States Chamber of Commerce, and his message was meant to reassure and reward the corporate world who is the only group that enjoyed economic prosperity from the tax cuts that began hurting the American economy a decade ago this week. Bush was full of praise for his audience when he said, “I’m especially honored to be able to speak to the folks who really help our economy grow, the entrepreneurs, the business folks of America, the employers, the risk takers, the people who really work hard to realize the great American Dream.” Bush was correct in saying the business community realizes the American dream, but they have not helped the economy grow or worked hard for their wealth that comes at the expense of the working-class’s tax dollars. The wealthiest Americans have benefitted from tax cuts and special tax privileges that 95% of Americans will never experience. However, it is the incessant Republican claim that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs that is most infuriating because it is erroneous and there is sufficient empirical evidence to refute the oft-claimed assertion.
The number of American jobs in June 2001 when the Bush tax cuts were signed into law was 132 million and within three years the number shrank to 131.4 million; it signaled the worst cycle since 1945 and belied the talking point that tax cuts spur job creation. Indeed, for the ten-year period after Bush’s tax cuts were passed, growth in investment, GDP, and employment were at lower performance levels than during any post-war era period. During the Clinton presidency, job growth was 16.2% compared to 4.8% during the Bush years. The news was not all negative though, because the wealthiest 1% of Americans realized a 65% income gain between 2002 and 2007 while average household income was lower than in 2000. It is not enough that the richest 2% of Americans increased their wealth at the expense of working-class Americans who were going backwards economically, but the tax cuts increased the national debt from $5.6 trillion to $10 trillion and the Republicans are not through destroying the economy yet.
The recent Republican budget that passed the House, in conjunction with a Republican jobs plan released last week, proposes to further reduce the top tax rate by 10%, and Republicans claim their cuts will “Increase American competitiveness to spur investment and create more American jobs.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that, “Just because we proposed it in the past doesn’t mean it was not a good idea.” Boehner must be spending too much time at the bars or in a tanning bed, because the past tax cuts and Republican economic plans under Bush were horrible ideas for working-class Americans, but were very good ideas for corporations and the wealthy who own them, and the Republicans are not through yet.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012, proposed a massive $7.8 trillion tax cut over ten years that represents Republican largesse with the middle class’s tax dollars. Pawlenty’s proposal calls for a tax increase on the middle class to help pay for a personal income tax cut of at least 41% for the wealthiest Americans. He also proposes completely eliminating the estate tax, capital gains tax, and tax on dividend income that benefits only the wealthiest 2% of Americans. The Minnesota maniac also places a cap on spending the will mean drastic cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid but does not include any cuts or cap on defense spending. Mr. Pawlenty’s plan also cuts the oil industry and corporate tax rate by more than 50% in spite of the fact that many of the largest corporations and oil companies pay no taxes at all.
The Republicans are on pace to take the paychecks of working Americans and hand them directly to the wealthiest Americans and their corporations. If Americans are outraged by the Heritage Foundation’s Path to Prosperity that Rep. Paul Ryan proposed, eliminating Medicare will be the least of their problems compared to Pawlenty’s proposal. The Pawlenty plan appears to be more ambitious than Republicans admit to, but they are in agreement that allowing the wealthiest Americans and corporations to rape all the wealth from the 95% of Americans who are not filthy rich is a good idea whose time has come. Why wouldn’t the Republicans propose such outrageous tax cut proposals? For ten years Republicans have convinced their poor, ignorant supporters that giving all of American’s tax dollars and wealth to the rich will create jobs, help the economy, and eventually trickle down to the rest of the population.
Since the recession began in 2008, the wealthy and corporations have posted record profits and increased revenue but they have hoarded the increased wealth while nearly every economic segment of the population has lost income and jobs. As Americans struggle to survive, Republicans propose giving more to the wealthy and corporations and are convincing their supporters that it will spur investment and create jobs. However, it has not worked for ten years and will not work in another ten, twenty, or a thousand years and Republicans know it. At some point, Americans must realize that Republicans are liars. The Bush-era tax cuts, coupled with deregulation of financial institutions were the cause of the aptly labeled Great Recession, and although Americans continue to suffer from Republican economic malfeasance, they still consider their plans good ideas.
As Americans celebrate the inauspicious anniversary of the Bush tax cuts that are responsible for devastating the economy and driving up the national debt, Republicans are poised to make the previous ten years look like an economic picnic. The American people are losing jobs and economic security because Republicans only know to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations and have the audacity to claim tax cuts are good for the economy. After 10 years, Republicans cannot claim their economic policies need more time to reach fruition and benefit the population, but they keep trying. Invariably, there are Republican devotees who will end up in dire poverty waiting for the tax cuts to create jobs and help the economy and it is a tragedy that their stupidity will contribute to the destruction of America. The Republicans in power though, know exactly what their devastating economic policies have done to this country, and as they continue their failed course, will count their campaign donations all the way to changing America into a private corporate enterprise. The tragedy is that it only took ten years to destroy 235 years of American progress.