During this election year, politicians and journalists are talking a great deal about the federal deficit, and what should be done to reduce it. Liberals claim that there’s a need for “revenue improvements,” a euphemistic way of saying tax rate increases. Conservatives and libertarians tend to suggest cuts in the rate of government spending.
A glance at recent history shows that the conservatives and libertarians stand on firmer ground.
It’s common enough to hear liberals and Democrats talk about the good ol’ days of the “Bill Clinton budget surplus.” I’m not one who usually finds much common ground with liberals and Democrats, but they are right in boasting about the last time the government ran a surplus.
I’ve looked up the numbers. The biggest Clinton surplus was achieved back in the year 2000, Clinton’s last full year in office. Total government spending that year was $1.79 trillion. Adjusting for inflation, that equals $2.35 trillion in federal government spending, in 2011 dollars.
The most radical spending cut proposed by any current presidential candidate is the trillion dollars in cuts proposed by Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Paul, in other words, is proposing that government spending be cut down from its current $3.8 trillion level to a “mere” $2.8 trillion, which would still be far more than President Clinton’s government spent in that much-vaunted year of the surplus.
The press has pretty much portrayed Congressman Paul’s proposed spending cuts as too radical to be taken seriously. I wonder what Bill Clinton thinks…