Favorite

Asa as Forrest Gump 



He is smarter and much, much meaner, but Asa Hutchinson still does a good imitation of Forrest Gump.

Gump was the mentally deficient film character whose account of his travels put him at the center of most of the epochal events of the last half of the 20th century.

In a speech to the North Little Rock Rotary Club, Hutchinson, the Republican candidate for governor, took a good measure of the credit for ending the mammoth federal budget deficits begun under President Reagan. You see, he arrived in Congress in 1997 as the representative from the Third Congressional District just in time, by his account, to help the Republicans fashion a budget package that ended deficit spending.

Here, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is what he told the Rotary:

“When I went to Congress in 1997 we had a $200 billion deficit. We had deficits as far as you could see in the future and we hadn’t had tax cuts in 16 years. Well, we wanted to enact tax cuts to spur our economy on, to put more trust and confidence and money in the entrepreneurs of our country. We did that, and people said you’ll never be able to pay for the needs and address the problems of the deficit. Well, we enacted tax cuts and balanced the budget three years ahead of time and reduced that $200 billion and balanced the budget.”

That is something to brag about, if it were only true. It is a wild distortion of what happened, and the memories of most Americans cannot be so short that they do not recognize it. But the secret of the successful Republican political strategy in recent times is the expectation that people will always accept pleasant fantasy over disagreeable reality.

First, the government did not run a $200 billion deficit in 1997. When Congress passed and President Clinton signed the budget act to which Hutchinson referred, at the end of July 1997, the treasury had already begun to run in the black. The fiscal year that ended two months later accumulated a deficit of only $21.9 billion, the smallest deficit since 1974.

When Democrat Bill Halter called his hand, Hutchinson’s office said he did not mean that the deficit was $200 billion for 1997 but that there were forecasts then of $200 billion in cumulative deficits over the next five years. But he said what he said.

Those $200 billion deficits were products of the Ronald Reagan and George Bush I administrations. The peak was Bush I’s last year, $290 billion. It went down every year, by big chunks, after the spring of 1993 when Clinton passed, without a single Republican vote, a budget that raised taxes on the well-to-do and slashed spending.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying two months after Congress passed the 1997 budget act, said the Clinton budget act in 1993 had pushed interest rates down and set off an unprecedented demand for capital equipment and labor — what we call business growth and jobs.

That is important to remember because it is what supply-siders like George W. Bush and, apparently, Hutchinson, say will happen when you cut taxes on the rich and corporations. It just doesn’t seem to happen for them.

But let’s go back to that history that Hutchinson was relating: the reversal that took us from “deficits as far as you could see” to big fat surpluses.

Here is what happened: The deficit had shrunk from $290 billion in Bush I’s last year to $127 billion in 1996 and the gap between revenues and spending continued shrinking early in the ’97 fiscal year until it disappeared and began to run in the black.

Congressional Republicans wanted a big tax cut for the rich and corporations but Clinton resisted. That July they finally struck a deal: smaller tax cuts for the fat cats (capital gains, taxes on rich estates and the alternative minimum tax on corporations) that the Republicans wanted and tax cuts for the middle class that Clinton wanted, mainly child-care and education tax credits. Moreover, they cut Medicare and some other entitlement spending but, at Clinton’s insistence, financed a vast expansion of Medicaid to insure medical care for low-income children.

All the tax cuts for fat cats did not kick in immediately but were to be phased in over several years, so the immediate impact of the budget package the following year, 1998, was projected to fatten the deficit slightly, not shrink it.

But the deficits were already gone. The government would run a surplus of $69.2 billion in 1998, the largest in American history to that point, and then $125.6 billion in 1999 and $236.4 billion in 2000. Big surpluses were forecast through 2020. But by 2002, when the ’97 tax cuts kicked in fully and were to have their impact, the country was running massive deficits again, thanks to more tax cuts for the rich.

Republicans look at the economy with funhouse mirrors. They always look tall and thin.

Here’s the question the Rotarians should have posed to Hutchinson: If the tax cuts for the wealthy caused an instant surplus back in 1997 why did the even bigger tax cuts that were part of Bush II’s economic program — supported by Congressman Hutchinson — seem to produce the opposite: giant deficits as far as you could see?

Hutchinson didn’t bring it up.


Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Death Row inmates argue to keep stay of execution in place; urge 8th Circuit not to 'rush' analysis

    Early this morning, attorneys for nine Death Row inmates, filed an argument with the 8th United States Court of Appeals contesting the state's effort to override Judge Kristine Baker's order Saturday that halted executions scheduled this month.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • Federal judge denies execution stay for Don Davis but larger stay continues

    Don Davis, who's been moved to the killing facility of the state prison for killing tonight at 7 p.m. if a stay of execution is lifted in another federal suit, sought a stay in another federal court Sunday, but the request was denied.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Coal is over

    The free market's natural search for cheaper and more efficient energy has taken over and even President Trump and a governing party heavily in denial about climate change cannot stop it.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Race to kill

    You wonder if Attorney General Leslie Rutledge would be so eager to execute if her grandpa, Leslie Rutledge, who was imprisoned for killing neighbor Joe Beel and mortally wounding his brother Frank, had been sentenced to death in 1952.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • Repeal charade

    The debacle of the repeal-Obamacare movement left the president and the Republican Congress ruminating about the terrible lessons they had learned from the defeat — mainly that neither ever had a health plan or even a clue about how to frame one.
    • Mar 30, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Coal is over

    The free market's natural search for cheaper and more efficient energy has taken over and even President Trump and a governing party heavily in denial about climate change cannot stop it.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Race to kill

    You wonder if Attorney General Leslie Rutledge would be so eager to execute if her grandpa, Leslie Rutledge, who was imprisoned for killing neighbor Joe Beel and mortally wounding his brother Frank, had been sentenced to death in 1952.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • Repeal charade

    The debacle of the repeal-Obamacare movement left the president and the Republican Congress ruminating about the terrible lessons they had learned from the defeat — mainly that neither ever had a health plan or even a clue about how to frame one.
    • Mar 30, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Art bull

    • the nice thing about art is that it is what it is, but what it…

    • on April 22, 2017
  • Re: Executionpalooza

    • Fantastic work-from-home opportunity for everyone... Work for three to five hrs a day and start…

    • on April 21, 2017
  • Re: Erasing humanity

    • Exactly how I feel only written much better than I could.

    • on April 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation