By Karen Finney - 06/06/11 09:57 PM EDT
Remember the fanfare of June 7, 2001, when President Bush — surrounded by many of the same Republicans now calling for austerity — told us that tax relief was on the way? At that White House ceremony, 10 years ago today, he said that the GOP economic package of tax cuts for the wealthy “job creators” would trickle down to the rest of us, changing our lives, increase savings and pensions and stimulating our economy with checks ranging from $300 for singles to $600 for couples.
Do you even remember how you spent that $300, courtesy of Republican economic policies?
At the time, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) accurately foreshadowed the economic troubles to come: Daschle reportedly said at a press conference, “I just know that at some point that reality is going to come crashing down on all of us and we’re going to have to deal with it.”
Republican leaders are again lecturing us about protecting the “job creators,” large corporations and the wealthiest, at the expense of America’s middle class. What they’re ignoring is the lesson that Republican “trickle-down” economics has given America a quick fix only to see our debt rise and middle class suffer as our economy struggles.
When President Reagan cut taxes in 1981, he too focused primarily on the wealthy, large corporations and oil companies; the wealthiest Americans benefited the most, and middle-class Americans were paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes when he left office. Facing recession and rising debt, Reagan was forced just a year later to raise taxes (and then for almost every year of his presidency).
During the ’90s, President Clinton got America’s finances on a methadone program, creating the largest economic expansion in our nation’s history. Clinton, Democratic leaders and now President Obama understand while it’s great for people to do well and make a lot of money, it’s better when everyone has that chance, while responsibly saving and investing for the future rather than the false relief of a quick high. Which is why the 2012 election is not just about the economy, Republican economics or the GOP plan to decimate Medicare — but also what they represent — breaking faith with our fundamental values as Americans — basic decency, hard work, opportunity and fairness.
No matter whom the Republican nominee is, Americans’ choice will come down to a matter of trust. Over the last two years the GOP has again abused that trust. In town halls across America the response to the GOP economic plan has been, “This is not what I voted for,” echoing the same feeling of disgust and mistrust that they felt the last time they gave the GOP power. In key states like Ohio and Wisconsin, voters are expressing buyer’s remorse about the economic policies of their governors.
Simply put, as a former boss used to say, “You can’t trust Republicans with your money.”
Whether you agree with President Obama or not, he has kept his word and is working to get and keep our economy moving in the right direction.
Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and a Democratic consultant.