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The Not-So-Grand Old Party
       On September 19, 2021, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told The Wall Street Journal that if McConnell and the GOP again force a government shutdown like they did in 2011, “We would emerge from this crisis a permanently weaker nation.” However, it seems that the Republicans will not be voting to raise the debt ceiling.
       In an article that was posted in Daily Kos on September 20, 2021, Thom Hartmann noted that “Republican strategist Jude Wanniski first proposed his Two Santa Clauses strategy in The Wall Street Journal in 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and the future of the Republican Party was so dim that books and articles were widely suggesting the GOP was about to go the way of the Whigs. There was genuine despair across the Republican Party, particularly when Jerry Ford couldn’t even beat an unknown peanut farmer from rural Georgia for the presidency….
       “First, the Two Santas strategy dictates, when Republicans control the White House they must spend money like a drunken Santa and cut taxes to run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible. This produces three results: it stimulates the economy thus making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy; it raises the debt dramatically; and it makes people think that Republicans are the ‘tax-cut Santa Clauses.’
       “Second, when a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans must scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how ‘our children will have to pay for it!’ and ‘we have to cut spending to solve the crisis!’ Shut down the government, crash the stock market, and damage US credibility around the world if necessary to stop Democrats from spending money. This will force the Democrats in power to cut their own social safety net programs and even Social Security, thus shooting their welfare-of-the-American-people Santa Claus right in the face….
       “Wanniski reasoned the reason the GOP was losing so many elections wasn’t just because of Nixon’s corruption, but mostly because the Democrats had been viewed since the New Deal as the Santa Claus party. On the other hand, the GOP, he said, was widely seen as the party of Scrooge because they publicly opposed everything from Social Security and Medicare to unemployment insurance and food stamps. The Democrats, he noted, got to play Santa Claus for decades when they passed out Social Security and Unemployment checks — both programs of FDR’s Democratic New Deal — as well as their ‘big government’ projects like roads, bridges, schools and highways that gave a healthy union paycheck to construction workers and made our country shine. Even worse, Democrats kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for all this stuff — and those taxes on the rich didn’t have any effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up until the Reagan Revolution, in fact).
       “It all added, Wanniski theorized, to the perception that the Democrats were the true party of Santa Claus, using taxes from the morbidly rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class. Americans loved the Democrats back then. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections. Therefore, Wanniski concluded, the GOP had to become a Santa Claus party, too. But because the Republicans hated the idea of helping out working people, they had to come up with a way to convince average voters that they, too, have the Santa spirit. But what?”
       Wanniski came up with the concept of “Supply-Side Economics,” which helped the economy by cutting taxes for the wealthy and their corporations, with only minimal cuts for the working class. This has also been known as Reaganomics or trickle-down economy. Theoretically, revenue for the government would increase by keeping taxes down and everyone would benefit. In actuality, the Republicans run up deficits while in office and then hold the Democrats to increase taxes and cut spending.
       In 1999, Ed Crane, then-president of the Koch-funded Libertarian CATO Institute, noted “…Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich…and the rest…thought they’d died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of debate over the proper role of government….That’s why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments.” As Hartmann noted: “Never again would Republicans worry about the debt or deficit when they were in office; and they knew well how to scream hysterically about it and hook in the economically naïve press as soon as Democrats again took power…. The Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski’s work. They held power for forty years, made their donors trillions of dollars, and cut organized labor's representation in the workplace from around a third of workers when Reagan came into office to around 6 percent of the non-governmental workforce today….
       “Think back to Ronald Reagan, who more than tripled the US debt from a mere $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in his 8 years. That spending produced a massive stimulus to the economy, and the biggest non-wartime increase in American national debt in all of our history. Nary a peep from Republicans about that 218% increase in our debt; they were just fine with it and to this day claim Reagan presided over a ‘great’ economy….When five rightwingers on the Supreme Court gave the White House to George W. Bush he reverted to Wanniski’s ‘Two Santa’ strategy and again nearly doubled the national debt, adding over a trillion in borrowed money to pay for his tax cut for billionaires, and tossing in two unfunded wars for good measure, which also added at least (long term) another $5 trillion….There was not a peep about that debt from any high-profile in-the-know Republicans….
       “Bush and Cheney raised the debt by 86% to over $10 trillion (and additional trillions in war debt that wasn’t put on the books until Obama entered office, so it looks like it’s his)….Next, Donald Trump raised our national debt by almost $7 trillion, but the GOP raised the debt ceiling without a peep every year for the first three years of his administration, and then suspended it altogether for 2020 (so, if Biden won, he’d have to justify raising the ceiling for 2 years’ worth of deficits, making it even more politically painful)….And now Republicans are getting ready to use the debt ceiling debate….”
       And, as was noted on September 23, 2021, in The New York Times – The Morning: “Republicans say they will not provide enough votes to lift the debt ceiling before the federal government hits its legal cap on borrowing next month. And because Democrats have packaged a debt-ceiling increase together with a bill to extend funding for the federal government beyond Sept. 30 (the end of the fiscal year), a possible government shutdown also looms. The standoff could have ripple effects. Economists are worried the uncertainty could hurt financial markets, while Democrats — already facing a packed congressional agenda — now have yet another legislative problem to solve….
       “Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is…trying to force Democrats to lift the debt ceiling with no Republican help….He hopes to make Democrats look fiscally irresponsible at the same time that they are also trying to pass a major spending bill that is the centerpiece of President Biden’s agenda….McConnell’s argument conveniently omits a couple of relevant facts: A significant amount of the current debt stems from tax cuts and spending signed by Donald Trump and passed with Republican votes. And Congress needs to increase the debt ceiling even if Biden’s spending program fails.”
       Fortunately, the debt ceiling was raised until December by passage of a short-term spending bill. However, as if this wasn’t enough, one only needs to consider the Republican efforts to filibuster in the Senate, gerrymandering in state districts and limiting voter rights on a broader scale.
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