Alias Smith and Jones
“By their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:20
I was born and raised a Republican. I was taught that Republicans were in favor of smaller government and fiscal responsibility. As I grew up, however, I realized that the rhetoric often didn’t match the reality.
Over the years, observing what Republicans and Democrats actually do, I saw a huge disconnect between words and actions. To demonstrate, I’ll describe the policies of two actual presidents. I’ll call them Presidents Smith and Jones. Try to decide which president’s actions fit alleged conservative values most closely.
I will add that Democrats/liberals are in favor of true fiscal responsibility and smart government. That means a combination of federal and local actions. Democrats believe government can function well and serve the people; Republicans seem to disagree. As examples, see which of the following showed the most benefits for Americans.
Terrorist attacks: Under President Smith, fewer than 50 Americans were killed in foreign-backed terrorist attacks. Under President Jones, 450 Americans, over nine times as many, were killed in such attacks.
Abortions: Under Smith, the number of abortions declined steadily every year. Under Jones, the number of abortions increased nearly every year. (nrlc.org)
Foreign conflicts: Under Smith, America was part of an international coalition which helped resolve a major foreign conflict; not one American was killed in combat during this operation. Jones involved America in a minor foreign conflict during which 19 Americans were killed in combat.
Arms treaties: Smith signed a treaty banning all nuclear testing. Jones signed a treaty reducing the number of nuclear weapons. Both presidents favored fewer nuclear weapons.
Job creation: Under Smith, 23 million net new jobs were created, including about 3.2 million government jobs. Under Jones, 16 million net new jobs were created, including about 2.5 million government jobs.
Growth of federal government: Under Smith, federal spending grew at a rate between 3.2-3.9 percent per year. Under Jones, federal spending grew between 4.9-8.7 percent per year, a much higher rate. Jones also created a brand-new cabinet level government agency; Smith didn’t.
Tax rates and increases: Smith raised the top two income tax rates to 36 and 39.6 percent, and raised corporate tax rates from 34 to 35 percent. Jones cut the top rate to 28 percent, but raised taxes a total of 11 times, in seven out of eight years in office.
Deficit, debt: Under Smith, the deficit went to zero, the budget was balanced, and the national debt was being paid down with the surplus. The debt ceiling was raised four times. Under Jones, the deficit more than doubled, the national debt was tripled, and the debt ceiling was raised 17 times.
If conservatives actually believe what they say about the size of government, fiscal responsibility, conservative values, and the rest, which president would they choose, based on these results? If you chose Smith, you should know that was President Bill Clinton. Jones was President Ronald Reagan. This doesn’t mean that Clinton was a secret conservative/Republican. It means that Republicans don’t really believe what they preach.
For example, if they believed in fiscal responsibility, they would have congratulated Clinton for eliminating the deficit, balancing the budget, and paying down the national debt. Instead, they impeached him. They would have vilified Reagan for tripling the national debt. Instead, they venerate him.
Reagan grew the federal government. He also oversaw one of the most corrupt administrations in U.S. history, including the Iran-Contra scandal and the collapse of the savings and loan industry. Republicans in general fail to live up to so-called conservative principles. From 1949 through 2008, Democrats created 53.2 million jobs during 24 years in the White House. Republicans created 38.3 million jobs in 36 years in the White House. In national security, economic prosperity, and even reducing abortions, Democrats do better.
Regarding foreign policy, under Clinton, the U.S. participated in the NATO action in Kosovo, stopping genocide and overthrowing a bloody dictator. Not one American was killed in combat. Under Reagan, the U.S. invaded Grenada, an action even Reagan’s buddy British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher thought was wrong. Americans were wounded and killed. Republicans may think this demonstrated strength. In reality, it showed arrogance and a disregard for the lives of our troops, not good American values.
In Republicanland, fantasy often overshadows reality. The above statistics prove that. This election year, check out facts instead of sound bites. We have real problems that need real solutions. Fantasy is fun when you’re a child. Adults should live in the real world.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.