Chief Justice John Roberts put his money where his mouth is in his opinion on NFIB v. Sebellius. In consistently holding that it is the job of the Court to save unconstitutional legislation through the use of disciplined jurisprudence, he can preserve his credibility as a jurist who defends both originalism and the will of the people. Roberts clearly preserved the individual mandate, taking a stand on the Obama Administration’s fallback position; that the mandate, enforceable as a non-punitive tax, was clearly within Congress’ authority to lay and collect taxes.
Well, that is the general theme, taken for granted by Americans ever since Saint Ronny the Gipper declared that democracy was the problem. But, like in earlier posts, the data tells a different story. For instance, this week, Marco Rubio (TP-Fla) was on the Charlie Rose Show speaking about “small business” and the crippling problems of regulations and taxes. But if the conservative point of view is so proper, shouldn’t businesses be less likely to fail when conservative values prevail?
Today’s opinions from the Supreme Court are important (the Arizona Immigration Law is only mostly unconstitutional, giving children mandatory life sentences is cruel and unusual, and corporations are exactly what the Founders thought of as people). But The Rational Middle wonders about other important goings on in our republic. Thoughts follow after the page break:
We live in the age of irony and paradox, a time driven by the data-fueled world of computers to destinations shaped by fancy and rhetoric. Everything we value is something we must be able to see and quantify, even as we attack and devalue the skills of vision and quantification. In a recent exchange in an unnamed social network, the individual with whom I have debating summarily dismissed my points with what will be (sadly) the endearing slogan of our era…
“I don’t trust any argument based on numbers.”
(Publisher’s note-Dr. Christopher Carpenter is a professor of communications at Western Illinois University whose research focuses on campaigns…which makes people like him among the very few who enjoy election years as much as twisted political junkies like myself. This year, Dr. Carpenter published an article that was, as Bob Uecker would say, “just a bit outside” his area of emphasis. Entitled, “Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and anti-social behavior”, it soon caught fire. Many readers in The Rational Middle will have their own experiences to share regarding this topic. His article was noticed by the folks at Oxford University, and he was invited to debate at the Oxford Union against a team featuring, among others, U.S. Senator David Vitter (R) of Louisiana. What follows are Dr. Carpenter’s experiences, posted with his permission. If you are interested in the original material, I have posted a link to the abstract here, the full article is, alas, behind a pay wall.-MC)
The 28 hours or so that I was in England were so jam-packed with “adventure, excitement, and really wild things” that I felt that I had best get all the details down before my fragile memory starts falling apart. Also, I figure if you all read this on Facebook, it will save me the time of telling you all later in person.
Forbes columnist Rex Nutting unleashed a maelstrom of nail-biting and “left-wing media conspiracy” claims when he pointed out that President Obama has increased federal spending at the lowest rate in 60 years. Conservatives rushed to find “flaws” in the analysis, liberals pointed out that the reduction in spending pace has harmed the recovery. In fact, typing in the columnist’s name and “Forbes” gets one dozens, if not hundreds of results before the column itself is shown.
Just as when Obama was elected, and all of this “historical spending binge” nonsense started, conservatives have left their calculators at the door, checked their memories with the coat-girl, and changed the subject. “Bush spent all that money, which is why I never liked him…” How many times have we heard that line, even as the GOP Members of Congress who voted for all of Bush’s programs, and (literally, since Congress has the power of the purse) spent all those trillions, continue to be elected and point fingers.
Now, although President Obama’s spending curve after 2009 has been moderate, we hear the argument changed…the problem, they say now, is the new benchmark for spending he “established”. OK…let’s concede the point for the sake of argument, and forget that the Great Recession sapped the United States of several hundred billion in tax revenues that year. Handicapped as they are, I am willing to give today’s conservatives a break. Over our thirty year orgy of tax and program cutting at the federal level, we have heard over and over that the Democrats are the big spenders. This is an easy thing to resolve…a simple point that lends itself to crisp mathematical analysis…and don’t worry sports-fans, there is no calculus in this post.
For your consideration, here are the increases over the previous year by each president since Saint Ronny the Gipper. For consistency, I have set the first year of the term as the year of inauguration, even though the first budget of any president is not in effect until October.
- 1981 +14.77%
- 1982 +9.95%
- 1983 +8.40%
- 1984 +5.38%
- 1985 +11.1%
- 1986 +4.65%
- 1987 +1.38%
- 1988 +6.02%
Tax and Spend Democrat Jimmy Carter averaged $490.733 billion per year in federal spending. Saint Ronny the Gipper, aka conservative icon Ronald Reagan spent $886.164 billion per year. Morning in America indeed; and I thought we were talking about conservative restraint. Actually, we were talking about disastrous new benchmarks for federal spending. After all, you conservatives know what a disaster America was in Reagan’s second term…right?
George H.W. Bush
- 1989 +7.45%
- 1990 +9.55%
- 1991 +5.68%
- 1992 +4.33%
W.’s father was closer to the conservative ideal, apparently, than Mr. Reagan. He averaged $1.275 trillion per year for his term. Where Mr. Reagan spent just over 80% more per year than Mr. Carter…80% more friends, the elder Mr. Bush restrained himself to a modest 44% increase. Now we are turning into fiscal conservatives.
- 1993 +2.02%
- 1994 +3.72%
- 1995 +3.69%
- 1996 +2.95%
- 1997 +2.60%
- 1998 +3.20%
- 1999 +2.99%
- 2000 +5.12%
It took Bill Clinton 8 budgets and a Republican Congress before he spent like the Democrat of conservative fairy tails. Bubba’s $1.586 trillion per year represents an increase over H.W. Bush of 24% per year. Ask yourself, would Fox News report the increase without giving their viewers the benefit of Bush/Reagan context? Why yes, yes they would. And they would also miss the tax increase that balanced the budget (passed in the 1993 Budget Act by Democrats and before Newt’s Contract With America), at the very same time as the job market boomed at its highest rate since World War II.
George W. Bush
- 2001 +4.13%
- 2002 +7.95%
- 2003 +7.41%
- 2004 +6.15%
- 2005 +7.81%
- 2006 +7.41%
- 2007 +2.77%
- 2008 +9.30%
George W. managed to average a 7% increase in federal spending every year. And notice 2007…that was the year after the Democrats retook Congress, but its probably just a coincidence. Cheney’s co-President managed to spend 51% more per year than Bill Clinton, cashing out $2.395 trillion in annual federal outlays. And where Bill’s budgets paid down the deficit and built the job market, Bush missed both targets badly. But missing targets is something he did with regularity.
- 2009 +17.94%
- 2010 -1.75%
- 2011 +4.25%
- 2012 +5.34%
Make no mistake, $3.593 trillion is a lot of cheddar, but President Obama has increased spending by less than President Bush did, posting an increase of 49%. That of course includes one major program of fiscal stimulus that isn’t scheduled to be repeated (even though it should be). We can and will go around and around on spending over the next several months, as we should. But the real numbers in the debate are what matters, not the Rovian bull-shit that seems to be the only argument conservative “thinkers” can muster these days. Based on the evidence, why would going back to a Republican president be anything like fiscal conservatism?
The Rational Middle is listening…