Debt and the fear of debt could put a halt to many over ambitious projects and moderate many more, until about 1983. It was along about that time the politicians decided debt did not matter anymore. Reagan, was President and some called him a “riverboat gambler”. Reagan’s plan was to cut taxes, but not to necessitate a commensurate cut in spending. When the books did not balance we would just borrow the money, which we did, in great sums. The sell was that tax cuts would stimulate the economy and produce more revenue. But, the revenue was never enough except for the year 2000.
If you go back and look at our debt ratios, which I have recently, you will see a significant jump in the numbers starting in Reagan’s first term and extending until the end of 1992.
When Reagan went into office the debt to GDP ratio was almost 33%. When he left office it was 52.6%. This is with an expanding GDP. When his successor left office, President Bush, it was 66%. During the Clinton years it was reduced to 57%. Again, with an expanding GDP. When the second Bush left office it was 78%. We are now at a 100% or more.
If you look at the % change in the national debt during the last few Presidential tenures it is equally revealing. President Carter had a 42% increase; Reagan had a 189% increase; the first Bush had a 55.6% increase; Clinton had a 36%; and the second Bush had a 89% increase.
If you happen to listen to right-wing radio, you want have to listen long until some broadcaster will extol that bastion of conservatism Ronald Reagan. Reagan had a lot of virtues to be sure, but he was not a fiscal conservative, or even close to it.
Republicans were once known as fiscal conservatives, but it takes a long memory. The Republicans have not had a fiscal conservative in so long I don’t know if they would still recognize one. That is why a lot of people think Republicans can’t manage money anymore.