The Democrats Are the Party of Fiscal Responsibility

The budget numbers of the past four decades reveal a clear pattern. But many journalists and experts are afraid to acknowledge it.

Comments: 179

  1. You describe well what you get when you put tax cuts and wars on a credit card to be paid by future generations.

  2. But this is the GOP plan. They cut taxes. The Democrats raise taxes. The voters know that, and only that, because the deficit does not have a direct effect on them. And when Clinton produced a surplus, Bush Jr. simply gave it away (that was pre 9/11).

    And the end result the Republicans seek is to create such a large structural deficit (i.e., debt service) that no tax increase would be enough to prevent cuts to social security and other safety net programs.

    So the Reagan-Bush-Bush-Trump deficits are a manifestation of a sinister plan.

  3. That's a popular lefty Democratic meme, but in reality....Republicans have done very little to cut SS. The only time they effectively did so (and I see nobody on the left trying to correct this!!!) is when they raised the age for full SS to 67 -- an age beyond the ability of most seniors to keep working (either they have poor health OR can't find jobs at that old). It was done when these very seniors (ME!!!) were only in our mid to late 20s, so we did not fully realize what a disaster this would be -- a 20-30% cut in our benefits for LIFE. We have paid in, but can't take out what our fellow baby boomers can -- people just 5 years older than we are.

    But beyond that....there has not been another direct change to SS since Reagan. The most was a PROPOSAL to offer a voucher OPTION for Medicare -- and it got totally shot down.

    The right has no more political power to take away SS or Medicare than the left. It was OBAMA who called to raise the age for SS to 70!! Medicare too! Imagine having wait until 70 for Medicare, when you've lost your job or health insurance!

  4. Thanks for joining Paul Krugman in pointing out the obvious, which I would like to restate more bluntly as follows: Democrats are more fiscally responsible, Republican talk is just talk, and 95% of "neutral" "pundits" (supposedly, meaning a thinking person) are blinded to the facts by their devotion to simple inherited stereotypes and are thereby helping to undermine our country.

  5. Capital B. Capital S.
    The amount of waste, fraud, corruption, and outright theft in just public education is rampant and ridiculous.
    Dems want more money to feed the beast.
    No way.
    Which is why Dems continue to lose.
    If they'd only act to stop it, they'd win.

    It's hardly rocket science.
    Sad what that says about the intellect of Democrats that they can't even figure out that voters continue to vote against waste and fraud.

  6. During the 15-month period from January 2017 to March 2018 2 million 800,000 jobs were created, an average of less than 200,000 jobs per month. That is over 500,000 fewer than the 3 million 300,000 jobs that were created during the similar period from January 2015 to March 2016, without rolling back any environmental regulations.

    Also, it is 1 million 500,000 fewer jobs than the 4 million 300,000 jobs that would have been created in 15 months at the average rate of job creation of the Clinton administration, 100,000 jobs per month higher than that of the current administration.

    At the current rate of job creation some 19 million jobs will be created between 2017 and 2020. At the rate of job creation during the Clinton administration some 30 million jobs would be created between 2017 and 2020. At an average reduction in the deficit of between $10,000 and $15,000 per new job because of increased tax receipts from individuals and corporations, reduced unemployment benefits, and reduced interest payments on the national debt, the deficit could be eliminated by 2020.

    By rescinding some of the recent tax cuts that are shown to have no positive effect on employment (i.e., no “trickle-down”) we could be in surplus territory, and could be starting to pay down the national debt.

  7. Sadly, both parties suffer from a lack of fiscal responsibility. Whomever is in power simply takes the blame. Unfortunately, it is easy to buy today and, maybe, pay tomorrow. It is no different than a spendthrift with a credit card, except the spendthrift cannot borrow I definitively or print money.

  8. The difference between the two parties is that Democrats make sure there is revenue to pay for their spending; the GOP not only spends more, but cuts its sources of revenue.
    It's as if the GOP thinks you can buy a really expensive car on credit and then ask your boss to cut your pay. Doesn't work.

  9. Did you read the editorial, the whole point is it’s not both parties

  10. Typical response from a conservative found at fault: both parties are the same.

  11. Interesting column. I might add that Republicans also don't believe in big government outside of a free-for-all military budgets. Since Ronald Reagan, the GOP have built their political philosophy on the premise that Government is bad, unregulated business is good. In short, the GOP does not govern. The Democrats get into power and they try to govern.

  12. Well sure enough someone woke up. Democrats expand economies to include most every strata of the electorate. Whereas Republicans limit any expansion of the economy. Especially now with impending limits on immigration . If America were to seriously compete in the world markets as a manufacturer, we could not do it because a lack of incoming labor through immigration. Just look at American history. We grew & economically strengthened our country through immigrant labor. In fact ,immigrant labor filled the jobs we native born Americans refused to do. It is reflected in our history for close to 400 years. It is reflected how slavery took hold ,when labor was in such short supply in the economies of many colonies. In our 242 year history as a nation, only under a Democratic President did we ever have a balanced budget for two years. Never have we had a balanced budget under a Republican. The modern day Bigly Lie, aside from Trump, is the idea that Republicans are fiscal conservatives.

  13. Absolutely False:

    The federal government has balanced the budget, eliminated deficits for more than three years, and paid down the debt more than 10% in just six periods since 1776, bringing in enough revenue to cover all of its spending during 1817-21, 1823-36, 1852-57, 1867-73, 1880-93, and 1920-30. The debt was paid down 29%. 100%, 59%, 27%, 57%, and 38% respectively. A depression began in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893 and 1929.

    So we have had a balanced budget for more then 2 years and paid down the debt 10% or more SIX times, each one ending in a terrible depression.

    The brief and small balanced budgets under Clinton, only paid down the debt 9%, but they contributed to the flow of money OUT of the private sector from 1996 to 2008 (except for brief period in 2003) which contributed to a huge explosion of PRIVATE debt which in turn led to the financial crisis of 2008

  14. Fiscal "conservatism" has nothing to do with the deficit. It's all about taxes, particularly taxes on corporations and large businesses and taxes on inheritance for our nation's wealthiest citizens. The deficit is only an issue when there is some threat of it being curtailed via tax increases. Conservatism does not entail any sort of drive or desire to "balance the books". Republicans deserve some credit for the deficit reduction that took place during Obama's presidency, and Democrats deserve some blame for our currently ballooning deficit. The budget belongs to Congress, not the President. But "conservatism" in the modern era simply means using deficit spending to expand and subsidize the government's instruments of violence (the military and police) rather than infrastructure and social engineering. Because Democrats and Republicans now have roughly equal representation in the Senate, both sides must be appeased. Unsurprisingly, this can only happen at great cost.

  15. It has long mystified me why people aren't cognizant of the pattern Mr Leonhardt describes here. The GOP blows up the deficit, and the Dems come in and clean up their damage. The only problem is that as the numbers get bigger--as the GOP gets more greedy cutting taxes without paying for it--it will be more and more difficult for the Dems to clean it up. And we will all pay the price.

  16. The 1% won't pay the price, not in the short term at least. They're the constituency the Republicans really serve, and thanks to current campaign financing regulations, the Democrats have to as well.

  17. The interesting thing about LMG’s point is that it was also made by none other than Grover Norquist. He admitted that it was necessary to elect Democrats from time to time so they could fix the messes created by the GOP and set the stage for next round of GOP control and even more messes. I never quite understand if his ultimate goal was for the GOP to create such a monstrous mess that nobody could fix it and the nation just crashed altogether. I think that’s what he meant by drowning government in the bathtub - no taxes, no government and no America, just a few very wealthy family fiefdoms.

  18. LMG said: "It has long mystified me why people aren't cognizant of the pattern Mr Leonhardt describes here."

    You can't expect the people to understand these meaningful differences when the media regularly traffics in false equivalencies ...

    As Mr. Leonhardt states: "I’ve spent 25 years as a journalist and have repeatedly seen the discomfort that journalists feel about proclaiming one political party to be more successful than the other on virtually any substantive issue. We journalists are much more comfortable holding up the imperfections of each and casting ourselves as the sophisticated skeptic."

    Sophisticated skeptics indeed.

  19. If your passion is for cutting taxes, it's hard to be fiscally responsible. Most people don't like paying taxes and it's been a winning political strategy to advocate for lower taxes.
    It's also consistent with the expressed desire to make government smaller, but that has proven to be difficult and not so popular. If Democrats tax and spend, it can be said that Republicans borrow and spend.

  20. Unfortunately, you are correct. Both parties spend money like there will be no consequence in the future.

  21. @Betsy S and Wolverine 7
    But you have both forgotten that President Clinton left office with a budget surplus.

  22. As a former mainstream newspaper journalist, I think your diagnosis of why news reporters and pundits don't point out this obvious pattern is solid. It's hard to break away from stereotyped story lines, aka "conventional wisdom," however wrong and out-of-date they have become because that might seem like taking sides, being taken in or using your own judgment. Doing that generally makes editors or readers uncomfortable. There is safety in the herd and, in practice, most career journalists and the news organizations they work for are risk adverse. They don't see challenging stereotypes or shifting paradigms as their job. So thanks for this brave column.

  23. Fair enough but, from all evidence, this approach has not preserved the credibility of the press and so our system, which relies on freedom of the press to report the real and the truth, is suffering a double whammy.

  24. Compared to Republicans, Democrats have long been the party of fiscal conservatism. Since Trump has led the party, the difference between the two parties has widened on this subject. Republicans in Congress have solidly embraced more and more enormous deficits, and will surely enact even bigger ones if they hold onto control of Congress.
    Unfortunately this is a very low bar. Compared to Bluebeard, President Trump is both relatively handsome and relatively respectful of women.

  25. 1. We need money to conduct commerce.

    2, As the economy grows we need more money.

    3. Money can come to the private sector from 2 places--the federal government or from a favorable trade balance.

    4. Money comes from the federal government in 2 ways--spending (fiscal) or from the FED to the banks (monetary).

    5, The FED has sent a lot of money to the banks with little effect. The money has sat in the vaults of the banks or been lent to the Rich who use it to speculate. This money has low velocity--it doesn't change hands in domestic commerce frequently.

    6. Net federal spending is measured by the federal deficit, i.e. the deficit measures the net flow of money to people, businesses (not banks) and state & local govs.

    7. Thus in order to get the new money the private sector needs, the federal deficit must be larger than the trade deficit. We have a large trade deficit. We need a large deficit.

    8. If the above is correct, periods of negative deficits, surpluses, which pay down the federal debt should lead to a bad economy. They have. There have been 6 such periods of longer than 3 years in US history, They have ALL ended in a real gut wrenching depression. In fact this accounts for all of our depressions.

    9. On the other hand, in 1946 we had the largest debt ratio in our history. The public debt ratio was 47% larger than today. We had deficits for 21 of the next 27 years. We increased the debt 75%.

    And we had Great Prosperity.

  26. (8): The above us not even close to correct. Sorry, but some of that book-learnin' might pay off here.

  27. Len,

    That is all true, but the kind of spending matters doesn’t it? The recent tax cut is a kind of negative spending in that it is targeted to the wealthy, who put it off shore or buy back stock( does that increase the likelihood of an ecoonomic crash?) and buy politicians. As you also pointed out, monetary stimulis is limited if money given by the fed sits in banks. These actions may be continuing a low interest environment, but it seems like nothing gets done in the public sector( infrastructure).

  28. Mark & Thomas are both right. The federal gov creates (high powered) money OUTSIDE the private sector. Thru the FED it can create as much as it needs. This money cannot be destroyed WITHIN the private sector--it is always in someone's bank acc.

    Thru loans banks create (low powered) money WITHIN the private sector. This money is temporary; it can be destroyed within the private sector. Banks can create on so much LPM. In the above 6 cases due to the federal gov sucking money OUT of the private sector, they had to create too much LPM relative to the HPM they had in reserves.

    And yes, we have to have the right kind of deficit spending. Deficits are necessary, but not sufficient. Money sent to a rich guy to keep in his basement or used in financial speculation is not useful money. It doesn't much help domestic commerce. Furthermore it does not yield useful results like the interstate highways.

    Another example: Except for a brief period in 2003, from 1996 to 2008, money flowed OUT of the private sector. Not so much because of the small Clinton surpluses, but because of globalization. It was going OUT of the country. By 2007 the big banks had 27 or 28 times the amount in loans as they had in reserves. In 2008 the system would have failed if the FED hadn't be able to pour TRILLIONS into it but it wasn't pretty.

    But my point is that "Fiscal Responsibility," spending less than we tax or is leaving the country has always led to disaster. It seems reasonable to think it always will.

  29. This column offers a brilliant analysis and should be necessary reading for everyone. It puts final numbers on the two parties' different policies.

    The Democrats should openly proclaim themselves the party of fiscal responsibility, a duty to our children and grandchildren.

    The Democrats should cease supporting the mindless, wasteful increases in ruinous military spending and become the champions of infrastructure spending. To ease the transition, veterans can be given hiring preference for infrastructure projects.

  30. Never happen. Too logical.

  31. Give me a break, in that for the last 60 years, Congress decided to borrow for almost every piece of legislation that they passed that needed funding, and in that way, each war, how long, each entitlement, all tax deductions and credits(74.000) pages of them, all of the subsidies, all the money that states received, everything, wouldn't be questioned. If taxpayers had been taxed for all of it, they would of paid attention, and decided what was important, and how much should be spent for it. Congress is little different than the ignorance of those who ran most of the cities, counties, and too many states, in how they handled their finances, built on borrowing, pyramid schemes(pensions that were promised so much that the long range payout has left fewer government workers as the money has run dry), higher property taxes that have become a burden on working class people, and those in the middle, who don't have the income to absorb the decisions that were made 40, 30, 20, and 10 years ago.

  32. @MaryKay
    Nothing that you've said negates the basic facts of this article.

  33. Some people still say "would of", despite all their claims of book-learnin' (sigh) ... well, they don't usually understand politics or economics.

  34. Don't you read Paul Krugman? Didn't you take introductory economics in college? Fiscal responsibility isn't about who has the smallest deficit or largest surplus but about who has a budget appropriate to the economic situation at hand. In times of recession we need deficits; prosperity is the time to reduce deficits or even run a surplus. Democrats are the fiscally responsible party because they are much more likely to follow that rule. The last surpluses were under Clinton when the country was prosperous; Bush then destroyed them with his tax cuts for the wealthy. Obama ran large deficits in his early years (although probably not large enough), but reduced them as prosperity returned. Trump (really Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell) then created more massive tax cuts for the wealthy, with the result that we will have deficits that have no economic purpose. You are right that the Democrats have shown themselves to be the party of fiscal responsibility, but your simple-minded focus on deficits rather than the role of the federal budget in the economy as a whole shows that you do not understand why.

  35. You're being a little harsh, don't you think? The article accomplished what it set out to do, which was to make a very simple point which, somehow, a great many voters seem completely unaware of.

  36. This is pure Keynesian macro policy. Excluding Clinton, not much evidence Democrats follow this policy. Republicans definitely do not.

  37. I agree with much of this column, but I think there’s a slightly more complicated answer to why this happens. The media both-siderism and totally willingness to repeat Republican talking points is a big factor in selling these outcomes to the public. The Republicans aren’t really a party of “fiscal responsibility” and neither are the Democrats. The Republicans work for the economic elite to the detriment of everyone else. Of course the media says they just have a different economic philosophy, since that’s what they’ve been told by politicians and think tanks.

    The reality is that when there’s a Democratic President, they do everything they can to hold the line and restrict spending on Dem priorities. Then when they get their guy in, the lid comes off and the Democrats say “well now we can use our own spending as a negotiating tool.” So the parties work hand in hand to explode the deficit.

  38. I have read a lot - more than I care to admit - over the past 12-18 months (newspapers, Twitter, etc), re: the crazy situation that is our country. One of the explanations that stood out is that this is exactly the GOP’s plan. They are playing the “long game” - they are the heros when they cut taxes (people seem to get excited over this, even if their benefit is the $1.50 Paul Ryan so generously referred to). And then Democrats are the “bad cops” who clean up the mess. Mr. Leonhardt lays it out there for everyone to see. That is their plan. And it is working. And unless we vote them out and keep control, things will continue in this general direction, thereby worsening income disparity and making us all worse off in the long run.

  39. I couldn't agree more. The republicans have a donor base with the means and the commitment to fund this long campaign to transfer value from the public to the private purse. As he begins his long good-bye media tour, soon-to-be-ex Congressman Ryan continues to blame so-called "entitlements" for deficits, despite the recent passage of his own budget-busting tax bill. I imagine that after he retires he'll be spearheading some well-funded Republican PAC or foundation designed and dedicated to the looting of the Social Security system.

  40. This fact has been obvious for quite a while. The places where Democrats want to "spend" more, things like infrastructure and education, could better be viewed as investments that would yield returns in future years. Contrast this with Republicans who tend to cut spending for education while increasing military spending and merely giving lip service to infrastructure spending. The contrast is stark. Republicans are clearly be fiscally irresponsible party and under Trump their irresponsibility has risen to dangerous levels.

  41. It is important to understand the priorities of each party. There is lots of talk of “exploding the deficit” when either party has the majority. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much meaningful discussion about how the parties choose to spend tax dollars. Eliminating inheritance taxes, (just one example of helping Republican’s favored constituency) and cutting taxes, which benefits mostly the rich, versus raising taxes to pay for education, healthcare and infrastructure, which benefits the entire population now and in the future, should paint a clear picture of which party is looking out for the majority of us.

  42. I have been saying for decades what you are now saying. I blame the media in large part for not reporting facts. The Republicans cut taxes and spend. The Democrats raise taxes and pay for new spending. The medicare expansion under Bush should have made it perfectly clear to everyone that the Republicans are only deficit hawks when Dems are in control

  43. Dick Cheney famously declared "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." We've got a generation of Americans who grew up with that mantra. The boomer generation was always more conservative than their predecessors and strongly supported cuts to the government by any means necessary.

    Even Clinton was Republican-lite and while he raised taxes, he only did so slightly. Clinton like his Republican predecessors cut spending by making changes to the social safety net and cutting back on the military complex. His success was largely due to the internet boom which led to a thriving economy and helped lower the deficit.

    We know that the country does better when Democrats are in charge but how do we convince the voters. If you look at the happiest countries they pay higher individual taxes than we do to enjoy universal daycare, elder care, healthcare, higher education and trade education. American voters will tell you that they want these things but if you mention the need to raise taxes to pay for such services they will vote Republican in the next election. The GOP only gets away with their no taxes mentality because that's what the voters want.

    What we need is for journalists to start educating readers on this reality. The problem is that Fox news and the Wall Street journal are where GOP voters get their information and they're certainly not going to encourage their voters to support Democrats. The campaign donors just don't want to pay higher taxes nor do voters.

  44. Ami: if you can sell Americans on much higher taxes and Swedish style socialism....go for it. Even Hillary said "we're not Denmark!" But you have every right to go ahead and try. I think the opposition to most such socialism in the US, is that we have had 50+ years experience of LBJ's Great Society and only watched as it made everything much worse -- destroyed stable black families -- promoted generational welfare dependence -- and most of all, people saw their tax dollars going to give benefits to OTHER PEOPLE. None of the programs LBJ pushed through benefited the middle or working class -- we "make too much money" -- and paying for stuff you don't get to enjoy makes people very angry. The Swedes and Danes put through social programs that EVERYONE gets to use, not just the poor.

  45. What sort of issues and arguments will sway the views of a swing voter in a swing state? That's who decides a presidential election and those are the people that need to be reached.

    In 2020, and to a lesser extent in 2018, the main financial issue is going to be the "Republican tax break", which is a big lie. But how to communicate that it is a lie?

    States will have to raise taxes in order to compensate for the lost Federal income. John Doe's Federal taxes may fall a few dollars but state and local taxes will rise to compensate.

    In the last few days there have been several articles about traditionally Right leaning states who are raising taxes for just this reason.

    This kind of immediate reality may help voters to see how fiscally irresponsible some GOP policies are.

  46. Our false story that we worship a market economy and the history of debt are related. Our economy has always depended on businesses and governments externalizing a portion of their overhead to internalize the immediate benefits- we have always benefitted today by not paying the total cost of our goods and services.
    Slavery, pollution, to not putting a tax on fuel to pay (directly) the costs of the pentagon to assure its delivery from the middle east for 75 years, to selling bonds to pay for govt services that do not produce long term benefits. . . . .none of it reflects a legitimate market.

  47. Externalization, the dirty little secret of capitalism. Privatize all the profit while socializing the costs as much as possible, especially the environmental damage.

  48. The Repubs argue that cutting taxes increases tax revenue. This fantasy has not proven true yet but may sometime in the future. Maybe if they would cut taxes on the average person, such as Obama did cutting the payroll tax, the average person would spend the money saved and actually increase the real economy as opposed to the Wall Street economy.

  49. One of the worst and most self-destructive things Obama did was a cut in pay roll taxes -- at a time when we desperately need to shore up and FUND Medicare and SS if you truly want them in the future. The cuts didn't make anyone financially secure and most people did not notice them -- all they see is the final amount on their pay check -- but now the SS Trust Fund, already shrinking, got a huge gouge taken out of it. And no plans, anywhere, ever to replace the lost revenues.

  50. Sure thing. "This fantasy has not proven true yet but may sometime in the future." Use you noggin please. A tax cut for the rich goes right into buying savings and investments---always has and always will. These tax cuts have NEVER EVER helped "grow" the economy---and yet you are advocating it be tried yet one more time? Are you crazy?

  51. Of course Mr. Leonhardt is right on the major points. What I'd like to see is the dollars for defense spending broken out as a separate line item. It's deeply disturbing (well, to me, anyway) when the political spectrum ranges from far right (massive increases in defense spending--Example "A" being Bret Stephens' recent admission that if it were up to him he'd double defense spending) to merely slightly right (many if not most Democrats say we should keep it at current levels or slightly above--that was before the recent huge increase Congress passed, though).

    Nobody, including me, is arguing in favor of unilateral disarmament. But when the US spends as much on defense as the next eight or so countries combined world wide, one has to wonder: What's more important, guns and nukes or infrastructure, eduction, job-creation programs, and health care? Isn't national defense also about having a vibrant, well-educated, healthy work force and efficient infrastructure that makes all businesses more productive? And to those who say that defense spending also creates jobs, my reply would be, "Yes, but far fewer than spending the same amount of money on non-defense spending." The stats are clear on that.

    Mr. Leonhardt, in a follow-up column perhaps you could focus on this aspect and educate all of us?

  52. The differential is actually bigger than you realize. The U.S. spends 47% of all the defense spending in the world. In fact, just increasing it by 10% (over and above any increase for inflation obviously) would in the end provide sufficient defense spending to take on the entire planet all by ourselves. I would have to ask anyone who wants to increase defense spending by so much "Who do you intend us to fight?" Make them answer that question first. That $82 extra billion Trump wanted and got? That amounted to a 9.8% increase after adjusting for inflation. Just who does Trump and Republicans expect us to be fighting?

  53. If the powers that be lumped all the dollars really spent on " defense" from the VA, to the Energy department, to NASA and to redundant Homeland Security any sane person would say "are you kidding me?"

  54. Amen sir, amen.

  55. We just figured this out? First thing I told my sons when Republicans came to power was cool, don't agree with the policy and will rail against it, but I bet I am the first one to recalculate and find out my weekly savings. They were like and thanks for the warmer weather as well.

  56. Good to know and share, with elections coming in the fall. Balance in all things.

    People relate to the truth, and the bitter truth is that the average American is worried and struggling to reach and/or hold onto the 'Dream'. This economy does not help the common.

    We've been too long in the sway of the rich, and thus the rich are winning. The idea of We the People is just a saying; actually, the top 1%, 5%, 10% are doing all the celebrating of the 'freedoms' of America.

    We've been sold 'freedom' at the expense of 'equality'. We can buy elections now, because that's our freedom at work. We can pay no taxes, because, with the right tax lawyers and write-offs and havens, that's freedom. We can cut taxes for the rich and take benefits from the poor because that is a form of freedom, as well.

    You say 'responsibility'. That's a word we don't 'do' very well, whether talking about the care of this world and it's ecological needs, or in regards to our fellow citizens, particularly if they are in need.

    Democrats are more responsible to compassion & equality & community.

    The Republicans have decided to follow lucre & Trump and all things benefiting the money-changers & their employers. The working-class Republicans can try and hid behind the flag or guns or abortion laws, but the big picture Republican policy is money. The billionaires and their right-wing media (truly fake), with the help of Russians & other nefarious characters, got Trump elected. Our bad.

    Now, our job to lead.

  57. Speaking of freedom...

    When Republican oligarchs and libertarians use that phrase, they aren't talking about _our_ freedom, but their 'freedom' to exploit workers and pilfer state funds without repercussions.

  58. Not to mention plundering our natural resources, denying scientific fact, befouling the environment, and setting a terrible example for the world of what "we the people" are all about.

  59. This narrative is also inextricably linked to the Right's persistent (and rather annoying, to some of us) harping about, "small government." One thing the Right has been much better at that the Left is "staying on message." Words matter, and they use the same words, over and over again, as tools of propaganda, mostly: "Small government," "States' rights," "Entitlements" (rather than insurance), "Death taxes" (rather than anti-dynastic wealth propagation), etc.

    The Left needs to develop consistent messaging to counter the "small government" trope, in particular, which is part and parcel to this column about who's fiscally responsible and who's not. The issue isn't small vs. large government, the issue is WHO does the government work for; the 99% or the 1%. Republican policies favor the 1% while Democrat policies favor the 99%. It's even possible we could have "limited government"--a Libertarian ideal--yet still have that government working for the 99%. What a concept.

  60. Its kinda funny, because Republican voters should realize, when working properly WE, the citizens thru our reps, are the government. It seems to be those on the right who are elected want small government to be lazy and not have to do much work, and to reduce the voice and power of the people but welcome special interest and Big Business influence thru the VIP enterence.

  61. Persistent deficits are generally bad until they aren't, e.g. during macro-economic crises when properly executed deficit spending can actually be good. However, what's is equally important is whether the economy overall creates new wealth (i.e. GDP growth) and that as a result the deficit ratio (ratio of debt to total wealth does not deteriorate.

    However, what seems at least as important or even more important is how this extra wealth is being (re-)distributed. And the biggest issue here is in my view that it goes over-proportionately to the top 5 or 1 or 0.1%. If you did the same exercise you would find that the debt ratio for the bottom 95 or so % has consistently gone up over the past 30 years, and especially so during Republican presidencies. In other words, the majority of Americans has become relatively (and many even absolutely) poorer because of Republican policies and that is the real issue.

  62. The collusion between the press and the politicians that reinforces the conventional "wisdom" that red is responsible and blue parties with the budget is grounded in inertia and the reality that news media have to make money. It takes a little extra time and effort to chart out the truth, but it also needs a willingness to admit the truth. The sad reality is that obscuring the truth makes more money and will be with us for a long time to come.

  63. This is all part of the larger false narrative that Republicans are practical, reasonable, and willing to accept certain harsh truths about the world, while Democrats are just naive, idealistic dreamers. Everyone knows the term "bleeding heart liberal," but few know it dates back to the New Deal, when the impractical, weepy acts of compassion being criticized were federal minimum wage and workplace safety laws.

    The facts cited here demonstrate once again that liberal policy is not only practical, but remarkably effective. Democrats are the party of responsibility, full stop. It's responsible to increase taxes on occasion so public institutions have the funds to operate. It's responsible to ensure that disabled, elderly, and impoverished citizens have food and shelter. It's responsible to assume the honor system is not enough to regulate the ethical behavior of corporations and financial institutions.

    I truly hope articles like this one help shed some light on the matter. It's a long time coming.

  64. I wish it was an article, but it's classified as opinion. Opinion writers have been saying this stuff forever. But folks at this newspaper are afraid of being called biased, even though they have the facts on their side, so they keep important news like this on the Opinion page. Are they afraid of a tweet? Of Rupert Murdoch? Sarah Huckabee Sanders? They're still acting like Paul Ryan has some credibility despite not being able to document it.

    The NEWS is: Republicans lie, cheat and steal to get what they want, and it's doubtful they think what they want is really good for people. It's just good for their bank accounts. This can be documented.

  65. Thank you for this column, but on the subject of Democrats and fiscal responsibility you could go much farther.

    Obama attempted to include the Medicare option when formulating the ACA and certainly there are a lot more Democrats willing to accept the evidence that Medicare is much more efficient than our insurance based health care.

    If our medical care costs were in line with other wealthy nations it would conserve over a trillion dollars annually. Only Democrats are calling for universal medicare.

    The vast majority of discretionary spending in the federal budget goes to the military- its budget has doubled since the mid-90's but the new Republican tax bill moves still more billions to it and Trump boasts about this.

    Republicans are generally much more forceful in promoting being tough on crime and increasing incarceration rates. We now imprison our citizens at 5X the rate of other wealthy nations at a cost of almost 30 grand annually for each prisoner.

    Before the privatization of our prisons our incarceration rate was near the norm. Republicans always support privatization- even when data clearly shows the government can do the job more efficiently.

    Democrats tend to advocate letting the private sector do what it does best but are not ideologically welded to removing the Federal government from doing what it does best.

  66. alan haigh: that is laughably untrue. Obama talked about a PUBLIC option (not necessarily Medicare) when he was running, but once in office....unsurprisingly, he dropped it like a hot potato. Pelosi, too. Hillary said clearly in her platform "NO public option" AND she said that "single payer was OFF THE TABLE". Her policy platform was to strengthen and enforce Obamacare -- draconian fines and punishment for lousy worthless "fake insurance" with high deductibles. So much for "affordable care". The reality, sir, is the Democrats have also betrayed us. They did nothing to help us, wasted a ton of money and ENTRENCHED the "fee for service" Big Insurance model of health "care".

  67. Paul Ryan’s republican tax cut dream is a nightmare. It is reckless to an extreme and that was the point of it. It was done to limit any kind of progressive spending and even ruin SSI. The Democrats will evetually clean it up, but it will be on the backs of the middle class. I see the outlines of the ‘new’ bipartisan republican politician being floated in the NYTimes. What this means politically is this extreme tax cut move to the right will only be partially moved back left and thus another victory for republicans.
    I’m not interested in bipartisanship if it means business as usual. I am not interested in Democratic fiscal responsibility, if we don’t get Medicare for all or it results in decreased SSI payments. Democrats should not shaft Americans to restore economic order.

  68. They ALWAYS were. There are two sides to the ledger. Democrats know that we need tax revenue. The most productive nation creates wealth for all its citizens. FDR took on the greedy rich. Gladly. What you value is where all the difference lies in any budget.

  69. Call it Fiscal Responsibility or just call it smart spending. The Democrats know that 1. you need to spend money to make money and 2. some spending pays you back (roads, schools, libraries, other social goods, and infrastructure). The Republicans don't seem to get this.

  70. Where is the Democratic leadership? They need an advertising blitz ignoring trump and the republicans and bringing this message to American people. They need an organized focus presentation. They need to flip any interview about trump/republicans and the destruction of what has made America great into a discussion of innovation, entrepreneurship, redeveloping respect, kindness, all ideas that will galvanize new voters. We can do this. The Democratic leadership needs to get in board and lead the way.

  71. I agree. I've felt this way for years. We need to get with it.

  72. Sure but all that costs money to "...fight the power, fight the power that be!". When was the last time you donated?

  73. I got a ten dollar increase in my paycheck. I spent it at the gas pump because gas prices had gone up. It was gone after only a few gallons. Next paycheck, I'll spend it at the food store because food prices are going up. It not enough to pay the heating bill which has gone up because of crazy, crazy weather. I hoped to use it at the movies but a movie ticket is more than ten dollars. In the rich part of town, my neighbors are using their $80,000 tax cut to redo their bathrooms with marble tile. A friends thirty year old son, a college grad, didn't get a tax refund at all. He works for a job without any benefits as a "gig" worker, week after week and is even invited to the Christmas Party, but his accountant tells him he is not eligible for anything in the new law. His mother helps him pay the rent with her refund. We look with frustration at the Democrats, men and women of character, People who Do the Right Thing but are Too Weak in the Fight. If they are to ever really stand up to the tyranny and lies that come from people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell they have to win the small fights as much as the big ones. This includes things like local problems (crumbling subways, choking traffic, teachers pay). They need to confront media propaganda and the problems of social media. Show us how much you care now, as the 2018 election approaches. We are frustrated and tired to too little, too late. There is no fiscal responsibility if you are not in the game.

  74. And of course, with remarkable and effective circularity, those Republican budget policies have relentlessly immiserated the very people who now back you know who.

    This persistent narrative, which I have found frustrating for years, persuaded these same people that both parties were to blame for their state of affairs.

    We can add to this delusion the similar delusions that tax cuts, however unfairly proportioned, always lead to economic growth, and that tax increases, however targeted, must always and inevitably lead to economic stagnation. Or that government regulation is, by definition, always bad.

    My fantasy is that the next President, if there is one (only half kidding), will be a result of the pendulum swinging back to the exact opposite kind of person, so we have a sober and careful Girl Scout who puts everything back together.

  75. I really appreciate this column not only for debunking the myth that Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility and that Democrats are fiscally reckless, but also putting the blame squarely on the mainstream media for this dangerous misperception. They have been supporting this "fake news" storyline for decades.
    For example when Clinton was President the media obsessed over the debt, constantly decrying the coming doom and reporting on the debt clock.
    Then Clinton and the Democrats passed a significant tax increase. The Republicans were shouting from the rooftops that this would crash our economy. Instead we had robust growth, record numbers of people moving out of poverty, and a significant budget surplus that was rapidly paying down our debt.
    Instead of spreading this great news, the preciously debt obsessed media went silent. Then Bush ran on tax cuts, saying that the surplus proved that taxes were too high. After all it was our money. Not once did I hear anyone in the media say that it was also our debt. In contrast Gore advocated continuing to use the surplus to pay down the debt so that the coming, temporary (!) SS shortfall from the retirement of the baby boomers would be easy to meet. The media responded by making fun of Gore for saying "lawk box" and being a boring policy wonk. In contrast they fawned over Bush as a regular guy who would be more fun to have a beer with.
    The media's main goal should be to inform the public, not play faux balance games.

  76. The facts of the matter is that Republicans are by far the best political propagandists. They've been so successful that the narrative Leonhardt describes has been indelibly imprinted on the brains of the vast majority of Americans.

    The other false narrative pushed by the GOP for decades is that it is the Party with a prudent foreign policy. Right.

    If there is a silver lining to Trump's hegemony, it is that both of these narratives are finally being exposed for the chimeras they've always been.

  77. The overwhelming majority of federal spending goes toward welfare and entitlements. That means the overwhelming majority of federal debt can be traced to...welfare and entitlements. And that welfare and those entitlements are overwhelmingly the product of the left, not the right.

    Oh, sure, Democrats are more than happy to pass a tax hike...but that isn't fiscal responsibility, its moral hazard, encouraging even more votes and policies for redistribution of wealth.

    If you want fiscal responsibility, the only way to get it is by ending the expectation that the state will guarantee you everything from housing to high speed internet. You'll never get that from Democrats.

  78. What was was not addressed in this piece is how the GOP spreads misinformation regarding budgets and expenditures.

    If you seriously think that the majority of our debt is the result of welfare and entitlements, then casting Democrats as the deficit bogeymen is apparently very easy

  79. I guess you skipped today's article about the positive aspects and savings created by government spending on poverty and how little we actually spend.

  80. Is this the kind of misinformation that's being bandied about under the rocks nowadays?

  81. Yes, the facts have shown for a long time Democrats are the fiscally responsible party. But facts have not counted in American political discourse for almost half a century, and much of the problem is due to the magnitude of the right wing media megaphone. The decline in educational Achievement in America has made its people easy prey to "alternate facts" and an alternate reality, and it's going to take more than one column in a newspaper labeled "socialist" to bring about any real change.

  82. David - glad you are on board with this - better late than never. All you have to do is perform an internet search on five words: "Economic performance Democratic Republican administrations" then sit back and read at your leisure.

    I thought growing up that the GOP was the party of economic responsibility. When I started doing research in 2003 on the economic history of this country - especially the last 100+ years - I found out I was sorely wrong. It's nice that Op-Ed folks like you and especially Paul Krugman are showing that the GOP emperors are not wearing any economic "clothing" but when are the front page reporters and news anchors going to blow the lid off of Trickle Down Economics? When are they going to hold the GOP to account on the ease of stock buybacks (the history on this is telling - go back to the Reagan administration)? We are seeing a scant little of this with the "retirement" of Paul Ryan but it is not enough. Absolutely I can point to Democrats as enablers especially when all they can put out is their tepid, milquetoast "A Better Deal" but the Fourth Estate bears a significant part of the responsibility as well. "Fair and balanced" is all fine, well and good - but you have to have something to balance first.

  83. Thank you for laying this out. Is there an additional pattern that is not stated? It seems to me that Republican spending habits increasing the deficit also wind up hurting the next President. So if voters catch on and bring in a fiscally conservative Democrat, the first term is hampered by the need to bring the deficit under control, which they do. Works out fairly well for the Republican party until one of their own gets elected at the wrong time... G.H.W. Bush had to control the deficit and was voted out after one term. I'd like to see reporting that explores this pattern.

  84. Comparing the end deficit-to-gdp vs the starting deficit-to-gdp is not a great measure of fiscal responsibility. More important is how much the debt was increased. Second graphic - seems disingenuous to show since 1977 when the prior data point runs counter to your view.

  85. Yeah, like in WWII?

  86. But it's even worse when one considers the huge environmental and financial costs the GOP consistently and destructively "externalizes" to the taxpayers through deregulation. And they're at it again, gunning for CFPB for all they're worth, not to mention Pruitt's EPA. Really, like their current "president", the GOP is truly expert in only one thing - bankruptcy. Only they do the entire country instead of their own companies.

  87. To me the budget problems are fairly obvious. If you don't have enough money to pay your bills and you need to continue to borrow money at a high interest rate, you don't cut back your hours at work. The same thing with government spending... if you don't have enough to pay the bills, stop giving tax cuts, especially to those who don't need help. When the economy is going strong, like it has for Obama's two terms, you do not squander that good economic roll to pay off your supporters like the republican party just did. The result of unnecessary tax cuts is always cuts to programs that help people, increased fees for services that everybody uses and of course increasing our national debt. When will America learn that republicans are NOT fiscally conservative, only socially conservative where they take away your choices in life.

  88. What evidence is there for the economy "going strong" under Obama?

  89. This author is missing the point. Republicans believe in small government and low taxes, so we cut taxes and attempt to force responsible entitlement spending cuts on Democrats. This is exceedingly difficult but eventually we will succeed, but it could take an entitlement funding crisis to get there. Democrats raise taxes and give away most of it as free stuff. That’s easy. Long term budget balancing will require significant entitlement cuts, and the Republicans are the only party even trying.

    Oh, and before you respond with that “I paid in 40 years” jibber jabber or “dedicated tax” half truths, know that the average American takes far, far more, especially from Medicare than he or she ever contributes.

  90. @DRS, your comment reminds me of what my teenage kids do - saying something that completely admits fault without realizing it. You unwittingly prove the point of the essay, that republicans take on the easy task of cutting taxes for their campaign donors while dumping the hard work of actual fiscal responsibility onto democrats!

    Re read your comment - it is remarkable in its inadvertent admission of the republican cowardice and hypocrisy.

  91. The United States is an enormous country comprised of dozens of states that all have wildly disparate resources and economies. A "small government" is not a realistic option for this country, and it ceased to be a relevant talking point around the time of the Louisiana Purchase.

    Republicans are responsible for the staggeringly disproportionate military budget that resulted in the U.S. possessing 7,000 nuclear warheads, when annihilating life on earth would only take about 100 nuclear detonations. What funded the creation of that absurdly unnecessary excess artillery? Taxes!

  92. So a bus driver who retires on Social Security is a taker. What do we call a CEO who "earns" 400 times the median wage. Something is wrong with a philosophy that condemns the bus driver crowns the CEO.

  93. For years, when I have had reason to explain why I vote Democrat, I have explained that it is in part because I lean fiscally conservative. Due to the very powerful conventional wisdom that this column describes, I find that my answer, even when coupled with the very support that Leonhardt provides, often meets some level of incomprehension combined with pity for my confusion and ignorance.

    Facts and reality should have been sufficient to discredit the false equivalence narrative, as well as the GOP as party of fiscal conservatism, family values, judicial restraint and law and order narratives, long ago. That they persist at all into the Trump era should be an embarrassment to mainstream journalists and pundits. My modest proposal to my fellow media consumers is to avoid media outlets that continue to promote them.

  94. Democrats basic belief is that government should be managed reasonably well and benefit the broad majority of the people. Yes, they frequently fall short and manage to give the impression they care only about various minority groups and have no interest in the overriding issue of working and middle class jobs. Republicans are masters at exploiting cultural issues while enacting policies that favor the rich and transferring economic risk to their working and middle class voters. It is interesting that Republican voters support Social Security and Medicare but clearly believe those benefits have been “earned” by White middle and working class workers not all those Brown, black and Hispanic “takers”.

  95. Since Jimmy Carter, I calculated that the deficit increased by twice as much on a percentage basis when a Republican was president as it did when a Democrat was president. In addition the S&P 500 rose twice as much on a percentage basis when a Democrat was president as it did when a Republican was president. So Republican presidents are worse on both debt and stock market growth than Democratic presidents, which is certainly not the conventional wisdom.

  96. California is another example of this pattern. In the past 30 years or so Republicans drove up the State deficit by huge numbers. Jerry Brown, supported by a supermajority in the State legislature and by voter initiatives, has raised taxes and implemented a fiscally conservative budget. His only foray into high spending has been the bullet train through the central valley, an effort to - gasp - bring the State into the 21st century, replace a decaying highway system and support the important agricultural community. Not surprisingly, the Republicans oppose it.

  97. Yes, the Democrats are the party of Fiscal Responsibility and the Republicans are not. But the Republicans take full ownership of that notion while the Democrats just sit on their hands and hope 'common sense' will prevail, that the masses will 'get it' that what the Republicans are doing is throwing out their 'spin'. But that's not the way it typically plays out.

    Instead the Republicans, with their affective history of getting out in front of issues, define the events in question, and typically paint the Democrats as the party at fault, thus, with themselves as the party that will rectify things.

    Case in point, the George W. Bush Administration bringing us economically to our knees as a result of their eight year debacle, with the Obama Administration righting our ship then handing off the fiscal baton to Trump who has taken full responsibility for our 'economic recovery'-the stellar performance of the stock market, improving 'job numbers', etc., etc., all the while as the Democrats sit idly by without running around with their hair on fire, reminding our incurious public of how that scenario really played out.

    Much of what we elect them for is to get the message out, about everything. But they've become too complacent at this endeavor. They need to get a 'War Room' together to figure this thing out and get some figures to represent us who are 'top heavy' with "charisma', who can rally us to where we are viewed as the Party who is Responsible at every turn.

  98. Commenter explains the fake meme of the tax cut in nitty-gritty terms. The Democrats must hammer home the point that the "tax cuts" are a myth when they don't even cover inflation. We get $1.90 extra a month to spend as we choose--wheee!--after the increase in health insurance premiums has been extracted from our annuity. The paltry cuts most of us get are swallowed by the rising costs of necessities, while those whose cuts are in the thousands can spend theirs on luxuries. Folks who think they've won the tax lottery with a few extra bucks haven't subtracted the increase in the cost of living from their "windfall."

  99. Nice to see this in print, but you could go further and note that Republican economic policies don’t work. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves or create jobs. Deregulation doesn’t make the economy stronger. Free market capitalism can’t solve all our problems.

    And let’s not forget the Biggest Lie - that government is the problem, not the solution - unless you qualify that by noting Republican government is the problem.

    All three branches of the Federal government are under GOP control, and a number of the states. If you want to see where and why America is in trouble, start there.

  100. When the GOP blows the dog whistle of "tax and spend liberals," their base dutifully responds in Pavlovian fashion and votes for Republicans. "Spend and charge conservatives" lacks the impact. It conveys someone else will pay at some later date. There is no sense of urgency or personal responsibility established. Of course we all pay, especially our children, but that's an issue for "some other time."

    It is all in the marketing.

  101. In terms of deficits, Obama had by far and away the largest increase, with Bush the second next. Approximately half of the accumulated deficits were rung up by these two. Your charts tend to disguise this. As to what the two parties actually do, there is no doubt that Republicans talk a good game on deficits, but, when in power, tax cutting is the real priority. Democrats are willing to live with higher taxes, but, they have been unwilling to broach the entitlement topic. In the long run, there will be a painful reckoning, regardless who is in power.

  102. Obama's increase were automatic increases in things like unemployment insurance payments due to the recession. Look at the graph. As soon as the recession was over the deficit went down, down, down under Obama. So much so that ultimately Obama ended up with a net decrease in deficit. So, no. "Regardless of who is in power" is plainly incorrect.

  103. George W. Bush 8 Year Job Creation Numbers
    -500,000 (that's a negative 500,000 jobs)

    Obama 8 year Job Creation Numbers
    13 million jobs (that's millions)

    The economy Trump inherited was humming along, with Obama's initiatives the locomotive responsible for the Market and Job Numbers Trump is taking credit for. I just wish the Democrats would get that information out there.

  104. And Trump's contribution to our childrens' debt in perpetuity (~2%) is the barest shadow of what's in store over the next few years. He's just getting started impoverishing the country as he enriches himself.

  105. The GOP will not be able to claim themselves as a party of "fiscal responsibility" anytime into the near future after their recent tax cut debacle. But claiming that the Democrats are a party of fiscal responsibility is laughable at best. Most Democrats, if given the chance, will tax and spend us into oblivion.

  106. Supposing that the projected deficits under Trump do occur then over 90% of the time since the Truman administration the US. has run a budget deficit. Rather than calling Democrats the party of fiscal responsibility, one should say they are not quite as bad as the Republicans on the federal deficit.

    Also even with the automatic stabilizers excluded the deficit will increase during recessions due to decreased tax revenues. All else equal we should see an increase in deficits during those times as can be seen in early part of the G.W. Bush administration and the "Great Recession" under Bush and Obama.

  107. Don’t forget the social good the non tax-cut debt has purchased.

    After WWII, we expanded access to healthcare and college with liberal programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the GI Bill. Would we really have been better off with sick, impoverished, uneducated parents, but less debt?

  108. So does this mean that the Dems will be presenting proposals for entitlement reform? Cuz that's the only way we can become fiscally responsible.

  109. The chart may be accurate but interpretation is an interesting game. How about: when GOP is in power Dems don't care if the deficit rises as long as social welfare gets some of the increase - ie the latest budget. But when Dems are in power the GOP screams bloody you know what when any increase in the deficit begins, and extract more military spending (at a minimum) if they can't get outright cuts to programs. The Dems go along, because they can get a very few things done themselves along the way. This is just as good an explanation

  110. These days it's nobody's job to state objective facts. Instead we have duelling misrepresentations/cherry-picking of stats/talking past one another. And the public really doesn't seem to want, or demand, anything else. I'm trying to understand why the % of people who view Trump "favorably" can fluctuate 7 or 8 points depending on the news of the day, or the week. You'd think by this time folks would have figured out that particular opinion, one way or the other. Another example: I would have thought that after Iraq no Republican could ever get elected president in this country for the next 30 years. I really just don't get it. Whatever it is, it's so fundamental that the country is doomed if we can't figure it out.

  111. Apparently, being pro-birth, pro-gun and anti-“them” (black, immigrant, lgbt, poor, chronically ill, non-Christian) trumps fleecing the Treasury for the rich, war mongering, environmental destruction, and prudent protections for consumers, workers and women.

  112. You are correct, although it was Lyndon Baines Johnson who got the deficit/debt ball rolling, to which add the advent of COLAs (supported by both Richard Nixon and the Democratic Congress) a few years later.

    There is a GOP hidden agenda: to end big government by bankrupting it. Since it's politically unpalatable to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Defense (the three big drivers of deficits), GOP leaders have decided that running up the national debt is the only way to curb spending. This amounts to destroying the village in order to "save" it, but that's the reality.


  113. The last balanced budget before Clinton's three was the one LBJ passed on to Nixon.

  114. It's a bit simplistic to say that one party pushed the deficit up or down without know what was happening in the wider world. Wars are expensive, the expansion of public programs can often cost more/less than anticipated. That said, both Bush and Trump are guilty of doling out tax cuts that do little but line the pockets of the wealthy.

  115. Based on the comments I see it is important to point out that the federal govt has been collecting record tax revenue and STILL is running a massive deficit.

    Due to the record tax receipts, we should conclude that this is not a crisis of insufficient taxation. It is a SPENDING crisis.

    The federal govt fiscal picture reminds me of celebrities like Johnny Depp or MC Hammer who find themselves swimming in red ink in spite of an impressive amount of revenue.

  116. Sir - the US government is never fiscally irresponsible - after all, it simply creates money every time it wants to buy something or hire someone.

    The taxes you pay to the governement are paid with currency that the government created in the past, out of thin air. The government has no need of your tax payments to fund anything.

    When you watch your favorite sports team, have you ever wondered where the officials find the points for the scoreboard? Of course not - and the federal government is the same way: it creates the points, so it can never run out.

    Please stop referring to the US government as revenue constrained; this is simply false.

  117. Anyone who reads NYTimes columnist, economics Ph.D. and Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman knows this already. I hope all of the NYTimes reporters and columnists specializing in s/he said "journalism" learn a lasting lesson from this data.

  118. The easier statement is that the GOP lies to get into power, and lies to stay in power.

  119. It is so difficult to cut expenses. That is why I favor automatic spending cut across the board whenever budget spending exceeds the total revenue. Paul Ryan suggested that entitlement is the budget breaker that deficit is rising regardless. However, I think only coward who would use entitlement as an excuse. With the control in the House, Senate and the White House, I find Republican simply has no excuse not to balance the budget. Thus, I will not vote for Republican candidates in the next election.

  120. It’s about time somebody brought up the issue. Partly the silence has been prompted by the fear, especially by newspapers, of being branded “liberal” by reactionaries, who claim to be “conservative” (hint: they’re nothing of the sort). Representatives of journalism, across the spectrum, are essentially conservative, in at least the good sense of that term, including The Times. The sophistry that The Times represents “the liberal press” is nonsense. The country needs to reclaim the meaning of basic terms of public discourse like “liberal” and “conservative” (as well as “progressive” and its variants). The reactionaries have ruled the airwaves for too long and the place to being reclaiming is print media. Sinclair Broadcast Group sure ain’t gonna help the situation.

  121. Democrats have Been forced to clean up the mess for Republicans and this time will be no different. I pray that it is not another worldwide financial meltdown again but I'm not so sure.

  122. This is not a surprise to anyone paying attention. But, you had to be paying attention. You would not learn a basic, provable truth from the media. Rather the media with its focus on the "entertainment" value of news abdicated its responsibility to provide the "knowledge". Grifters like Newt flourished tossing out catnip descriptors like "pathetic" and "death tax" to a news corps too willing to report on drama than facts.

  123. Agreed. The old labels are dead.
    Rebranding the Dems as the party of fiscal responsibility is correct.

  124. This narrative fits my preconception having lived through twelve presidencies.I know for certain that first on the agenda of a Republican president is a tax cut to" juice" the economy.With a propped up economy they can then increase defense spending.The Democratic regime that follows has no leeway to spend more money so they devise bills with spending and some offsets.Some Democrats increase taxes as Mr.Clinton did and the economy roars ahead.I am so glad that you produced the statistics to debunk the myth that Republicans are fiscally responsible.The rest of the story of irresponsible spending is that our children and grandchildren are going to have to pay higher taxes and have social programs cut. It is a shameful legacy- why can't we realize that our behavior has consequences?

  125. Some of us figured this out a dozen years ago and switched parties. I was a good Republican for over 30 years. I sincerely apologize for my grave error of supporting them in the past.

  126. "You know Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."
    When Dick Cheney interrupted Treasury Secretary O'Neill with his famous dictum, he wasn't advancing the case for Modern Monetary Theory. The GOP's fiscal profligacy has nothing to do with economics, and everything to do with politics. Republicans will continue to ignore the deficit until voters punish them for it.

  127. The repubs have cut spending to the bone and we get teachers' strikes in deeply red states. See a pattern here...the birds are coming home to roost. This tax cut will be the last for a very, very long time.

  128. Republicans accuse Democrats of “tax and spend” economics. Republicans are the party of “borrow and spend” which increases the deficit for which they blame the Democrats.
    This has been the pattern for decades but voters don’t seem to catch on.
    As Mark Twain said, “It’s harder to convince a man he’s been fooled than it is to fool him in the first place.”
    Seems to apply to journalists and pundits as well.

  129. "But should Mr. Trump move to hobble or kill the investigation, he would darken rather than dispel the cloud of suspicion around him."

    I have been saying for several months, that only Mueller can clear Trump. To whatever extent Trump can be "cleared." For many Americans, the collusion allegations are the least of out worries. Trump has convicted himself out of his own mouth (and fingers) of his unfitness for office, whether or no specific actions rise to a "high crime or misdemeanor."

  130. Running your household finances like a Republican administration would be devastating. Bankruptcy! It's not just for Trump businesses.

  131. Thank you, David Leonhardt! It is about bloody time that this was said out fact screamed out loud. The trend goes much further back than the late '70s and it is true in my country, Canada, as well.
    It is time for Democrats (Liberals) to state these FACTS clearly.

    The lies of the 'right' must be drowned out and corrected...'tax and spend' is only appropriate when speaking of the 'right' which (over) spends and then forces the 'left' to tax when the mess lands back in their laps.

    The media has been extremely culpable in repeating the lies and trying to show a balance when there isn't one. Trump was elected by this exact media malpractice and still deserves to be addressed by the lack of balance it has earned and continues to earn.

  132. Taking the Clinton years out of the equation, not really seeing major differences between the two parties

  133. I favor the party that cuts or eliminates federal govt programs and reduces taxes. And by "cut" I mean an actual reduction in spending, not a slowing of the rate of growth.

    Oh wait, there is no such animal.

    Republicans talk about this but behave differently. Libertarians also talk about this fiscal platform but are never elected to anything.

    Fiscal conservatives are kind of politically homeless right now.

  134. "In fact, the Democrats’ biggest recent deficit sins have come when they are in the minority, and have enough power only to make an already expensive Republican bill more so. The budget Trump signed last month is the latest example."

    That's hogwash, what were they supposed to do?

  135. "The only thing worse than a 'Tax and Spend' Democrat is a 'Spend but Don't Tax" Republican."

  136. The Democrats are the Party of adults. Yes, true fiscal responsibility lies within the Democratic Party because when they're in power they know how to restrain their impulses. Republicans talk a good game but when in power they're all over the place. Paying themselves in tax breaks, spending like drunken sailors, running up the national credit card, striking out at the poor, hugging their guns, asking no one to restrain them through deregulation. They're the adolescent Party. The teenagers who want the keys to the car but wait for the adults to fix it when they smash the car up after a night of drunken partying. This has been going on since the Reagan years and continues on now. Trump is just the latest iteration of the lack of impulse control that lies within the Party. The biggest difference is that he lets it all hang out through his tweets. Mind you, he'll crash the economy and the country once again and then the country will elect Democrats to come fix it just like last time.

  137. I remember as an example the very first Republican legislation after the 2016 election, literally in the post midnight hours of the first day, was an attempt to hamstring the Congressional Ethics committee. Although abandoned later, it was a perfect expression of the Republican Id.

  138. David, the rank and file who support the GOP understand that the lies serve a higher purpose, the creation of a gated community and slush fund for right-thinking white Christian Americans. Once that is assumed, every move fits: Tax cuts provide cover to reduce social services that benefit you know who. Local control of schools allows separate but (un)equal education. Beefing up an already bloated military provides a jobs program for those willing to swear an oath.

    Oh, and as John Oliver recently reported, your tax dollars also support fake clinics that claim to offer a full range of medical services to pregnant women but actually don't: What else could they possibly be, you might ask if you have managed to ignore the connection between the GOP and fundamentalism.

    Tax theft to fund military "procurement": According to in 2014: "The new defense spending bill includes $120 million for tanks that the Army has repeatedly said it doesn't want.

    Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said that Congress said that 'This provision keeps the production lines open in Lima, Ohio, ....'

    "The General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Lima ... is in the district of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

    "The tank debate between the Army and Congress goes back to 2012 when Odierno testified that '[T]hese are additional tanks that we don't need.'"

    It's a nice racket when one can distribute tax dollars among friends and then, when the tax payments run dry, max out the original American Express credit card.

  139. One party has now spent almost 40 years cutting taxes and expanding government programs without paying for them. The other party has raised taxes and usually been careful to pay for its new programs.

    If you consider what people see on the local levels of government, the headline does not hold. Democrats are not viewed, nor are they, the party of fiscal responsibility. Not locally, and the view carries over to the Washington raise-the-taxes polices of the Democratic party.

  140. In distinguishing Democrats from Republicans, deficits are beside the point. What matters most is the shear hatred the Republican party has espoused since the late 19th century.

  141. I stopped supporting Republicans on fiscal issues in the wake of Bush's absurd tax cuts, some 15 years ago.

    It's nice that a reporter here or there is now recognizing Republicans' real fiscal position (as opposed to their stated position of fiscal prudence) but really, it's taken this long?

  142. Doing a thought experiment on what would be recent political history if Hillary Clinton was/is president would be useful for formulating what should be done within the next couple of years—and what appeal can best be used for the non-local dimensions of upcoming elections.

    It’s easy to shun replaying why Clinton lost, but recent news is increasingly highlighting how the ascension of Trump was not the will of The People, such that The People chose a Democratic presidency that We are not getting, as the political situation gets worse at home, and American leadership is being set back decades.

    There was a will of The People in the U.S. in 2016 that deserves to not be filed away in handwringing about how differently times might be now, if only a few little factors in the last days of the campaigns had not happened (such as a massive Wikileaks e-mail dump exactly as the slimeball’s Access Hollywood tapes were in the headlines).

    We have a truly democratic president sitting on the sidelines, as we suffer a buffoon.

  143. The media had, as Franken pointed out, a lazy bias. It is much easier to just repeat memes that have generally been accepted.

  144. The Dems are the party of fiscal responsibility? This has been obvious since the 1990s, when Bill Clinton helped produce our country’s first (and last) budget surplus since 1969.

  145. The claim that Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility is absurd. Nor can the Republicans make this claim. The Democrats can claim more benefits, greater taxes and the Republicans can claim lower taxes, warmongering, more spending. However to claim the crown of Fiscal Responsibility is like comparing too falling down drunks on who gets the “Good driving” award.

  146. I am in favor of getting more money in the private sector. Tax cuts do that, but in a very inefficient manner.

    First of all, they have to be for those who need money and will spend it, and not to for those who do not need the money and will use most of it for financial speculation. The Republican bill does just the opposite.

    Then think about this. Suppose we cut poor Joe's taxes $1,000. That gets $1,000 into the private sector because Joe will spend it, and it will go to help producing jobs for others. But suppose we pay Joe, $1,000 to cut the White House lawn. We still get the $1,000 into the economy, but we ALSO get the lawn cut.

    That is why federal spending is a better way to get money into the private sector than tax cuts.

    Now what would this do? Today although businesses and banks are awash with cash, businesses are not borrowing to expand because people do not have enough money to buy what they would produce. We have just have 2 studies that showed if the typical American family had a real emergency and had to come up with some money, they couldn't do it. One said the half the people couldn't come up with $400 & the other that 2/3rds couldn't find $1,000.

    The FED cannot get the money to where is is needed, to where it would be useful, to where it would have high velocity. Since the crisis, the velocity of money has been plunging.

  147. Please, stop, your killing me. Let's ignore your illogical assumption that presidents, rather than legislators, make our budgets. Too obvious.

    Instead, let's recall that our deficits are going to surge because of out-of-control spending on two programs: Medicare and social security. Democrats, including your hero Obama, have explicitly resisted any serious discussion of reforming these programs. Obama explicitly attacked Paul Ryan, the only serious member of Congress to make this his issue. Now he's gone. As is our future. So please stop. Democrats could care less about deficits.

  148. @ MFW Please, stop. Both Medicare and SS need to be taxing upper income wages. Stopping taxes at lower levels makes these programs for wage earners look as if they are not "paid for". This, of course, neglects the entire non-wage component of wealth that many (not nearly enough) retirees have access to after retirement. Medicare is an efficient system to deliver health care to a segment of the population which uses it; Medicare needs to be expanded to age 55 or lower. Social Security needs to be a program which an provide actual living costs to retirees to keep them--especially women-- from years in poverty. It is a benefit which contributes to a healthy economy including consumer spending and employment.

  149. Yes, and why don't Democrats tout this more?

    Normal, moderate, non-partisan voters admire fiscal responsibility. It's as if Democrats buy into the lies from the other side.

  150. It was very telling about Trump and Republicans in general when he continually portrayed the tax-cuts as something to help workers, pipe fitters, teachers and so forth, then when he (thought) he was alone with a massively rich constituency at Mar-a-Lago, said (and I quote) "You all just got a whole lot richer." referring to the tax cuts.

    Yep, Republicans are about as serious about budgets as they are fund raising disclosure and the rule of law. What they are serious about is making life worse for the poor, doing everything they can to disenfranchise those who politically disagree with their perspective, and ensuring court appointments that will stand behind laws that keep their oligarchy in place.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, when they chained themselves to Donald Trump, they put in motion a chain of events that will lead to more financial justice, sunlight and disclosure, and fewer court appointments. In fact, I hope we see some of Trump's to be recalled.

    When all is said and done and the Republicans realize they've elected a criminal and charlatan, it will break the party in half.

    Then, the Democrats will come in and do what they can to clean up the mess... just like they have.

  151. Nearly 10 trillion dollars added to the national debt during the Obama Presidency. Is this your definition of a deficit hawk? Not to mention a severely weakened military, which makes us significantly more at risk until it is rebuilt.

  152. Did the USA get attacked during the 8 years obama was president? If not, why do you claim his efforts to control military spending (in reality, just baby steps) left us in danger of attack? What risk justifies the current regime's build up of an already expensive war machine?

  153. I can't believe we're still hearing this same old Fox News chestnut.

    Most of the deficit created under Obama were incurred in the first few months of his administration in attempting to prevent a total meltdown of the financial system initiated by the Bush administration in 2008. Even larger deficit spending would have been appropriate for this purpose - but then the Republican deficit hawks started screeching about the deficit and generally obstructing most of what the Dems wanted to do to rebuild the economy. Remember the Sequester?

  154. The Democrats are indeed the party of fiscal responsibility.
    What is the GOP? The party of machine gun rights? The "starve the beast" party?

  155. What does this say about our country when almost half the population do not pay federal income taxes ?
    To the right it means "they are all the takers"
    In reality it means in many cases that they don't make enough on 2 or 3 jobs to reach the federal tax threshold.

    Were there no rich people left after the New Deal ?
    Nonsense, the rich were never really hurt when many have enough to last several lifetimes.
    Today we have become so much worse. Twenty percent or more of our citizens live below the poverty level. Sad and disgraceful. The war on poverty has become the war on the poverty stricken.

  156. The Republican machine has great skill in propaganda. They create sound bites and apparently press a button to start their talking heads spewing those sound bites non-stop, until the public start thinking that, since they’ve heard it so often and for so long, it must be true.

    The idea that the Republican Party is the party of “conservatives” is one of these ideas. They put a spin on it, making it appear to mean “fiscally conservative” but the only conservation that is happening is the conservation of political power being held in white men’s hands. For them, conservation means “no change” so that they can maintain their positions of power.

  157. It is ridiculous to claim Democrats are the party of fiscal discipline. Yes, taxes perhaps can be raised on certain segments, but there is not enough money in the 1% to pay for the programs the democrats favor, and for the government jobs and pensions they want to provide.

  158. “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

    When St. Reagan said that "government is not the solution, it is the problem," many Americans swooned. Even now right wing pundits, including the more moderate David Brooks, speak fondly of St. Reagan.

    When GWB unashamedly stood atop an aircraft carrier and proclaimed "Mission Accomplished," the GOP roared.

    When Trump repeated multiple times "The Mexicans are going to pay for this wall," his supporters roared. This became such a standard cliche that he switched to asking the people the question "Who's going to pay for the wall?" to which his base roared "Mexico."

    What is common to all these examples? They speak to the gullibility of a swath of Americans who will believe anything said by a Republican in spite of their senses telling them that something is awry and incorrect.

    Clearly the Marx brothers knew Americans' illiteracy and/or gullibility long before these politicians began to exploit that.

  159. It makes sense in that the agenda of the GOP is to reduce government by starving revenue so social welfare programs are underfunded, thus leaving it to Democrats, when they finally have the majority to balance the budget, and then blowing a hole in the budget when the GOP are back in office.

  160. Marketing is the art of creating a belief unrestrained by reality. Republicans have mastered it, and Democrats are still talking about fairness.

  161. Yes, Dems have been the party of fiscal responsibility, within the boundaries of what is politically possible. We will need more revenue to meet long-term health care needs and calling for the tax increases that will require is not politically possible. And in fairness to Dems, few media sources would dream of giving them the justified credit Leonhardt does: instead, the media mostly resorts to the "pox on both their houses" false equivalence that has given a sick Republican Party cover for years now.

  162. Where do we think voters get the idea that the Democrats are tax-and-spend but Republicans are fiscal conservatives? What makes them believe that the Democrats want illegal immigrants to steal their jobs, while the Republicans quietly ship their jobs overseas? Why do they think that bleeding-heart Democrats want to make them pay taxes to support "welfare queens," while behind the scenes the Republican donors slyly stuff what should have been their fair contribution to the running of the country into their bloated offshore bank accounts?

    Four words: Fox "News," false equivalency

    We must restore the Fairness Doctrine.

  163. While the writer has a valid point, both parties are fiscally irresponsible about running the government without paying for it. Both need to tackle putting social security and Medicare on a firmer financial footing. While the Republicans may be the bigger hypocrites on this issue, if the Democrats believe in government, then they should pay for it and not try to obscure the real costs.

  164. "The country’s political impressions are heavily influenced by people who are supposed to be neutral observers — reporters, television anchors, think-tank experts and the like."

    Journalists like to think of themselves as neutral observers. But the real world intrudes on their fantasy. The real world includes Sinclair and Fox. Their journalists do not share your pretense of neutrality. They are propaganda outlets for the Republican Party, the party that killed the FCC fairness doctrine.

  165. An interesting article, and probably true. But I would like to see statistics on the deficit based on who controlled congress, not the presidency. Can you give this to us, Mr. Leonhardt?

  166. Both parties and their respective presidents have continued to call the appropriations for the 17 year old Iraq/Afghanistan war 'emergency' expenditures and exclude them from the regular budget and the reported budget deficit. Shame, shame on all of them.

  167. During the 15-month period from January 2017 to March 2018 2 million 800,000 jobs were created, an average of less than 200,000 jobs per month. That is over 500,000 fewer than the 3 million 300,000 jobs that were created during the similar period from January 2015 to March 2016, without rolling back any environmental regulations.

    Also, it is 1 million 500,000 fewer jobs than the 4 million 300,000 jobs that would have been created in 15 months at the average rate of job creation of the Clinton administration, 100,000 jobs per month higher than that of the current administration.

    At the current rate of job creation some 19 million jobs will be created between 2017 and 2020. At the rate of job creation during the Clinton administration some 30 million jobs would be created between 2017 and 2020. At an average reduction in the deficit of between $10,000 and $15,000 per new job because of increased tax receipts from individuals and corporations, reduced unemployment benefits, and reduced interest payments on the national debt, the deficit could be eliminated by 2020.

    By rescinding some of the recent tax cuts that are shown to have no positive effect on employment (i.e., no “trickle-down”) we could be in surplus territory, and could be starting to pay down the national debt.

  168. The perception gap is caused by outright lies by Republican politicians and their rhetoric eagerly repeated by the media.

  169. The Republican Party has no real policy foundation other than to project and create an image of vast misrepresentation. As the article points out they gather people around the banner that spending is bad because you can’t spend what you don’t have. They constantly find reasons to build a military force by their aggravation of international geopolitical issues that have constantly led to war after war, big and small, long and short paying Government Contractors gigantic sums of money that create the highest profit margins on earth, those contractors reward the Republicans by financing their election campaigns. Through this rat wheel of corruption Republicans build the illusion of being a political party that is best on defense and security. In other words they light fires and put them out. In recent years, the past 5 decades they no longer win wars even against small tin pot dictators. The second area of hypocrisy is the constant need to pay back their richest donors by lowering their contribution to the country that made them irresponsibly rich through tax reduction and favorable inclination toward the wishes of these mega rich by enacting laws and rules of the road that increase their wealth by even higher profit margins, Tell me what else do they do ?

  170. Perception is a game that Republicans have mastered. They wrap themselves in American flags, they loudly claim strong Christian faith - implying their opponents may be something else - and they lie with polished ease.

    As Trump has said, "you say it and they believe it."

    What is most disturbing is professional journalists who fall for the Broadway Republican performance which rivals Fox for propaganda.

  171. How many times will the voting public vote for the party that has given us mor recessions and depressions than any other. Voters keep believing you can turn copper into gold. The Republican Party is now right where the Whig Party was in 1830’s. What’s next? They morph into the Neo No Nothing’s?

  172. Republicans, Mr. Leonhardt, have always been better at messaging. They know they can’t compete with truth so they employ fear—any of the hot-button issues—abortion; race; jobs—will suffice.

    Democrats once owned the American narrative: F.D.R., J.F.K., even L.B.J. was capable of soaring in the rarified air of oratory on occasion. Recall Clinton and Obama’s rhetorical flourishes—especially the latter—but they all required that we all participate in the heavy lifting. Republicans want the heavy lifting done while they observe, grimaces on their wrinkled faces, from the frowning sidelines.

    If you’ve followed national spending policy for even the briefest of times, it’s easy to see where the GOP wants to go. Theirs is a philosophy of government that holds that any staying hand upon free enterprise is very nearly blasphemy--like denying the crucified Christ—whom they summon to their threadbare arguments with the straightest of faces. They desire military spending through the roof—but not to protect the homeland—they wish military might to protect their assets. Nothing more.

    So when Democratic presidents propose spending taxpayer money on the various facets of the common need—roads and ways; ports; public transportation; even recreational settings such as national parks and monuments, the GOP froths at the mouth, “creeping Socialism” they shrill, and get out the message that spending on these line items benefits “others.”

    It’s all un-American, of course, but that’s the point.

  173. Yes, Democrats have failed to communicate how much better they are at deficit reduction than Republicans. But the real challenge is explaining to voters why this matters and how they will benefit

  174. It is commonplace to use terms such as "the economy" and "the nation or the country". We treat these words as existing realities. The simple fact is that such terminology represents its underlying basis, We The People. A country and its economy are nothing more than the sum of its citizens.

    When we declare that the economy is weak this means that the position of its citizens is weakening. When the country goes to war, it's citizens, mostly young lives are put in harm's way. The US did not bomb Syria, certain of its citizens did.

    Why state the obvious? I want to believe that if every decision citizens take, especially when viewing the success and failures of their country and those governing it is viewed through the prism of what is the impact to me, my family, my friends and the population as a whole, those elected to Congress in the 2018 elections will have the best interest of the country in heart and mind.

    Neither Dems nor Republicans have expanded or contracted the deficit, indirectly the People have, either by being duped by disingenuous politicians, not scrutinizing their record or perhaps by simply not putting enough thought into their vote. The mess this country faces, was caused by the people and only the People can rectify it.

    Here's to a voter turnout exceeding 70% in 2018. For me, the higher the turnout, the greater the probability the country and its citizens will get back on a proper footing.

  175. If you plot the time series of annual deficits adjusted for inflation (real deficits) for the post WWII period, Ike - Trump to date, you'll readily see that the GOP is the party of deficits, period. Moreover, a simple calculation and graphing of average annual change in real deficits .. by party tenure .. reveals that the GOP has presided over virtually the entirety of deficit growth over that period.

    And, people say the media has a "liberal bias?" Not on this point ...

  176. All politicians like to spend. Financially supporting their constituents helps them get re-elected. Generally speaking, financial support by Democrats is via social welfare and via corporate welfare by Republicans. The later is documented by the recent large tax cuts for corporations, which by all estimates (including the Congressional Budget Office) will create bigger budget deficits and an even larger national debt.

  177. Not questioning your data, and heartily endorse your sentiments - but, how much of the observed result is due to partisan effort vs. how much due to blind luck - being in office during an economic boom time?

  178. Perhaps. But currently we are in a Relative up cycle and running up the deficit instead of putting money away for a rainy day.

  179. While we are setting the record straight, how about discontinuing the practice of calling Social Security as an entitlement?

    If you do not participate via the premium collected as a payroll tax, you do not qualify. If you do not earn enough points by participation you also do not qualify. Following the meme that Social Security is an entitlement makes it look like welfare- which it is not. It also is self funded and the benefits paid do not cause deficits.