Tax and Spend Liberals: An unfair label?

I have seen it numerous times on this forum as well as elsewhere. There seems to be a political meme that Republicans are more fiscally responsible and loathe to drop new taxes on people in a Robin Hood like fashion (take from the rich and give to the poor). To be honest I tended to accept this as Truth as well.

However, while I have not looked in to local politics on this level, the book Unequal Democracy not only challenges this notion but actually turns it on its head.

The author describes himself as distinctly apolitical and his bona fides seem in order so I do not think this is a liberal hit job. Rather it looks like a guy who crunched some numbers and found some surprising results. Below are some quotes but debunk/support at will.

Certainly looking at the Bush administration it does not seem Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility but feel free to show me they are if you can. Given that the economy is a top-of-the-list issue in this election this seems worthy of a good look to see if the old notions really hold water.

Sample chapters from Unequal Democracy (lots more detail there too)

I thought that after “Spend and Spend” Dubya, “Tax and Spend” was a compliment now.

Sure seems McCain is trying to paint Obama as someone who will raise everyone’s taxes so at least McCain still thinks it is an anchor around his opponent’s neck.

Well that is a completely different question. Is it an effective campaign slogan - absolutely! That’s why something like 50-60% of people think that Obama will raise their taxes when the actual number is more like 5%. Is it a fair label? Well, generally speaking, any 3-word label of a political party comprising millions of people is never going to be fair. Is “Country Club Conservatives” a fair label?

Fair enough but we fight ignorance here supposedly. So while we probably cannot change everyone’s minds in the country about an unfairly applied label we can gain some small measure here. Certainly I have seen this meme hinted at if not outright stated around threads here.

If someone wants to start a thread debunking the inappropriateness of using the phrase “Country Club Conservatives” they are free to do so. However, I see this issue as distinctly more insidious as it goes to how people will think the country is run versus hinting at a general distaste for presumably snobbish people.

Oh, I understand your question in the OP, I was just responding to your claim that McCain was pushing the meme. Him pushing it has way more to do with the effectiveness of the charge than the validity of it.

As to the original question, I think the record of the last 8 years makes it quite clear that increases in non-defense, discretionary spending are by no means solely the domain of liberal politicians. As far as the tax side of the label, it’s probably generally true that liberals are more likely to support taxation as a means of wealth redistribution while conservatives tend to prefer tax cuts as economic stimulation (vs. increased government spending). I’m not sure what, if any, link these two facts have on the main thrust of your cite in the OP which is that the general economy has tended to grow faster under Democratic regimes in Washington. If anything, I think it would tend to imply that increased taxation and increased government spending is not the anathema to growth that conservatives would have us believe.

Is “effective but invalid” a nice way of saying that McCain is lying about Obama’s financial plan?

I certainly hope it is not an unfair label. We know for a fact that they want to tax. So I sincerely hope they want to spend it, as well, as opposed to keeping it for themselves.

In loosely related news, Congressman Rangel, the head of the Ways and Means Committee, seems to have his own tax philosophy:

IMO, yes, but I honestly believe that McCain (and his supporters) don’t see it that way. The current argument seems to be either that not cutting the business income tax rate is equivalent to raising personal income taxes (because the tax cost will be passed along) or that they simply don’t trust Obama to do what he has planned to do and will actually raise taxes more than he has outlined (some times FICA or estate taxes are mentioned at this point).

I can’t help but feeling that there is an excluded middle here… oh yeah, balanced budgets… I seem to remember a surplus in the not-so-distant past. Or is this my first whooosh?

“Tax and spend” is shorthand for “wants big government, thinks the government is the best way to solve all problems” (or, on the last point, doesn’t even consider whether the government is the correct agent to solve problems). Given Obama’s continuous stream of what the government can do for you in each and every speech he gives, someone arguing against this conception of the Democratic party has a tough row to hoe IMHO.

Maybe but it has been an accusation leveled at Democrats as long as I can remember. My cite in the OP suggests for all the belly aching at the horror of what Democrats want the US prospers notably better under them than under Republican administrations.

Seeing as how both parties have demonstrated very clearly they both lack the discipline to curb spending, the issue is how to cover the check. Democrats are willing to raise taxes to balance the budget; Republicans simply increase the deficit, and pass the bill on to their grandchildren. If “Tax and Spend” is an appropriate moniker for Democrats, then “Dine ‘N’ Dash” is spot on for Republicans. Under the circumstances, “Tax and Spend” is the more responsible policy, far preferable to the chickenshit lack of accountability shown by the Republicans, who think nothing of eating their children’s lunch, then leaving the check on the table.

A study of the facts will not bear out the traditional proposition. Democrats spend less, turn in budgets closer to being in balance, expand government less, create more jobs, borrow less money, etc. To someone not inclined to believe this, there is no single site I could send you to, but offer instead that you go out and review economic data.

Another canard is “liberal media”. While there are indeed some small town papers that have a liberal bent, major media is decidedly conservative with a few personalities like Olbermann as exceptions.

Supply side economics has had 3 tries. Reagan era, Japanese bubble era and Bush. While supply side economics is a nice rheory (and i took a class from one of the architects and Reagan economic advisors Dr. Schnell), 3 tries in 2 countries have ended in tears.

Dine and dash republicans is a good soundbite explanation.

You may wish to familiarize yourself with the facts. Since Reagan, Democratic Presidents have consistently delivered lower budget deficits, as a share of GDP.

Spending as a share of GDP is more of a mixed bag. Carter increased it, Reagan increased it (defense buildup) then brought it back to about where it was. Bush I increased it (recession) and Clinton decreased spending. Bush II increased spending of course.

No Republican President has paired tax cuts with significant spending reductions. Substantial and sustained spending discipline only occurred during the Clinton era, though frankly Bush I pushed some decent initiatives, including the much maligned tax increase.

Source: the chart studying page 5 of this !PDF! :

The contrasting records of Bill Clinton and Bush II stand out.

Another data source: see table 455.
Caveat: Budget deficits are beneficial during recessions. But during periods of expansion, cutting budget deficits is salutary.

But Bartel’s argument is a little different. Some nifty charts are here:

Another result: while Republicans are pretty good at delivering election year growth (1 out of 4), Democrats do a better job during non-election years.

Why Democratic administrations outperform Republican ones is unclear: I seem to recall Paul Krugman saying that there really isn’t a clear mechanism for this. I hypothesize that market fundamentalism tends to lead to policy errors such as the S&L crisis and the current banking crisis, while it eschews successes such as Clinton’s loans to Mexico during the Asian crisis. Recall that Gingrich et al opposed them.

But that frankly is just a guess: more research is needed.


False. See the .pdf file in the previous post. Clinton controlled spending.

Err…that’s what I am trying to do here. I think my previous problem was allowing the Republicans to muddy the waters. I was not seeing the forest because of the trees, so to speak. I was also buying into the meme that a Democrat never saw a regulation they did not like and business needs to be free as much a spossible of such things. I work in the Chicago Board of Trade and the traders there (by and large) are convinced Obama will ruin them (not helped by blaming oil speculation as the cause of high oil prices). Of course a lack of oversight sees us in the current subprime debacle yet Reps seems able to hold on to the notion that regulation = bad.

“Tax and spend” translates to “pay as you go”. On the other side, the Republicans method is “borrow and spend”, which translates to “put the country into debt”, which explains our present fiscal disaster. “Tax and spend” just has this nice populist ring to it, and can be said with a sneer, which is right up the right’s alley. The borrowed money has to come from somewhere, so the Pubbies raid Medicare and cut social programs and education, reduce oversight of key agencies (as we’ve seen recently with the banking crisis, FEMA, DOI, etc.), and borrow from nations that will eventually crush us economically (China).

“Pay as you go” is my personal philosophy, which is why I am completely debt free and can retire early. If I were like most Americans, who live with crushing credit card and loan debt, I would be in the same shape as the federal government. I’ll take “tax and spend” over the alternative any day .

I was surprised to find, several years ago, that the original form of the quote was suypposed to be “tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect”, and that it was attributed to Harry Hopkins, one of FDR’s advisors. Evidently Hopkins denied ever saying this, however, and I see that on the internet you can find the quote given in different circumstances, so that evidently not everyone agrees on exactly what it meant.

I just want to note that , having taxed, no government ever seems to do anything but spend – they never invest. And they seem determined to spend whether taxing is involved or not.

One would hope that a university professor such as one quoted would be familiar with the concept of correlation does not mean causation, and the pitfalls of small sample sizes. Also remember that party ideology changes. Eisenhower was most concerned with balancing budgets while JFK massively cut taxes. In terms of percentages his tax cuts were much larger than either Reagan or Bush’s.
Tax and spend liberals seems like a fair label, since liberals are proposing to spend money on various things and that money must come from taxes eventually. I have always thought that being a liberal must save alot of time during policy debates because “Raise taxes on the top X% and throw money at the problem” solves every problem.