Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Red Party" Means Party of Red Ink

Republican politicians love to campaign on promises of financial restraint. They insist that less government spending and lower taxes will promote economic growth and thus increase revenues to the states. We’ve had a lot of states flip Republican lately - in fact, 24 states now have Republicans owning the governor’s chair and majorities in the legislature.

Those 24 states should be humming along, bursting at the seams with new jobs and awash in cash, right? Wrong.

At least a dozen of these red states are staring huge financial shortfalls in the face. As a result, Republican governors are having to feverishly slash spending. From social programs to the environment, virtually nothing is safe.

After campaigning on tax cuts the governors don’t dare mention an increase now. As a result, they are picking over the carcasses of their states’ economies, trying desperately to squeeze out every last dime of savings they can - and still coming up short.

If there’s any humor to be found in this mess, the fact that so many of these governors are former or current contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination should be good for a laugh - especially when you remember most or all of them preach they would be good for the country’s economic growth.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has a $7 billion deficit to deal with. Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana is over $1.5 billion in the hole. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has a $2 billion shortfall keeping him awake at night. In Kansas, Sam Brownback has to cope with nearly $1 billion worth of red ink. Illinois is $3 billion short with Bruce Rauner at the helm.

The list goes on… state after state, controlled by Republicans, being forced to slash education, aid to the poor and other essential programs in attempts to forestall financial disaster.

Here in West Virginia, the GOP wrestled control away from the Democrats in 2014 on promises of jobs and growth. Have either of those happened yet as we near the end of 2015? No. The few things they managed to accomplish (if that’s even the right word in this case) won’t benefit the citizens of the state one bit.

Safety regulations for the coal mining industry were rolled back. Prevailing wage took a pummeling. Certain used cars were exempted from implied warranty protection. (Coincidentally, Senate President and now-gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole owns a chain of used car dealerships) Regulations protecting state waterways from storage tank spills were gutted, despite a massive 2014 spill that affected the water supply for over 300,000 West Virginians.

The only job-related action in the 2015 legislative session was a collective Republican thumbing of the nose to Tesla Motors and ride-sharing service Uber. Both companies wanted to do business in West Virginia but were unceremoniously sent packing.

Republicans promise jobs and growth but recent history says otherwise.  Both President Obama and Clinton witnessed an average rate of job growth over 1 million each year. Neither President Bush was able to come close to that number, coming in at 630,000 and 135,000 per year respectively. The two Democratic Presidents oversaw an annual job growth 2.1 million per year. The two Republicans had a combined annual rate of 300,000.

The two Democratic Presidents saw on average more than a 3 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate during their Presidencies. The two Republicans saw on average more than a 2 percentage point increase. Each Republican President left office with the country in recession.

Both Presidents Obama and Clinton witnessed significant declines in the annual budget deficit on their watch. Both President H.W. and W. Bush saw increases of the annual budget deficit on their watch. The second President Bush came to office with a $100 billion annual surplus. He left office with a $1.4 trillion annual deficit, one of the most dramatic turnarounds of America’s finances in any period in US history.

The Red Party is actually the Party of Red Ink. Republicans and budget disasters go hand in hand. The citizens of West Virginia need to keep this in mind when they vote - in both the governor’s race and in the presidential election - on November 8, 2016.

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