I was fascinated by former President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention. But the thing that resonated with me most was the part about arithmetic. Clinton was able to achieve four years of budget surpluses when he was president while deficits have exploded under Republican administrations.
Bill Clinton began his remarks about dealing with the deficit this way: “Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: Arithmetic.”
His point was that Republicans only have three choices about how they will lower the deficit if they also cut taxes (primarily for the wealthy) by $5 trillion, as they have said they will do. The first possible outcome, Clinton said, was to “cover it by cutting deductions, like the ones for home mortgages and charitable giving.” In that case, “middle-class families will see their tax bills go up an average of $2,000 while anybody who makes $3 million or more will see their tax bill go down $250,000.”
The second scenario, said Clinton, is to “cut so much spending that they’ll obliterate the budget for the national parks, for ensuring clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air travel. They’ll cut way back on Pell Grants, college loans, early childhood education, child nutrition programs, all the programs that help to empower middle-class families and help poor kids. Or, they’ll cut back on investments in roads and bridges and science and technology and biomedical research.”
Or, alternatively, the Republican will just cut taxes without cutting spending, as Clinton correctly says they’ve been doing for more than 30 years, which will “explode the debt and weaken the economy.”
As a CPA and candidate for Congress in this area, I believe strongly in looking at the numbers behind campaign promises to analyze what they actually mean. In my opinion, a budget like that sponsored by Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and enthusiastically supported by Representative Peter Roskam will only add to our deficit problem. We need to grow the economy in order to start solving our budget crisis, not slash programs that help people when they need it. As President Clinton said, “It’s the arithmetic.”