On January 20, 1981, the late Ronald Reagan uttered these proverbial words which the Republican Party and affiliates have been repeating ever since: Government is the problem. This simple sentence carries a heavy load of ideological meaning and has become the foundation of many if not most, republican economic proposals. The 2007 economic crisis in the United States, labeled the Great Recession, has perhaps put a dent into this ideological standpoint, at least according to democrats.
First there was the Bush stimulus package in 2008 that did not prevent the economic recession. Once President, Barack Obama signed into law his own stimulus package approved by Congress that brought about mixed results. Economists from the left and center-left argue that the stimulus was not big enough. Economists from the right and center-right argue to the contrary, that the stimulus package was nothing but a waste of taxpayers’ money.
All in all, the idea of a stimulus to accelerate economic activities in the private sector strongly suggests the importance of government in fostering economic activities. Democrats argue further that the 2001 Bush tax cut deprived government of important revenue to ensure permanence of vital social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and benefited largely and unevenly the rich to the expense of the middle class.
Republicans argue that the Bush tax cuts were necessary to help foster and maintain growth, and help deprive government of revenue that helps it remain bloated to the detriment of taxpayers and private enterprises. They prefer a government that is trimmed, and which regulates private sector’s economic activities only in areas that are absolutely necessary and nonintrusive.
The basic premise of either party’s argument revolves around these two different governing philosophies. Asking Mitt Romney to release his taxes for the last 10 years for instance, is just a way for Democrats to point to what they consider to be the fundamental “unfairness” of the tax code which they argue, “favors the rich to the detriment of the middle class”. Republicans, when they pound at the Affordable Care Act, are also expressing their fundamental argument against a government which they consider to be too big and intrusive. They are reverting to the Reagan’s unabashed argument that “Government is the problem”.
Hopefully, the 2012 elections will help the American people make choices that will have consequences for generations to come. Should Obama be reelected, the Affordable Care Act will be vigorously enforced and will play a major role in our political discourse, only equal to that of Medicare and Social Security. His reelection would also mean an end to the Bush tax break for the very top tier of wage earners.
Should Romney become 44th President of the United States, Obamacare will be at best severely restricted and perhaps even overturned. It is also a virtual certainty that the Bush tax breaks, as enacted in 2001, will remain as is and even become permanent under a Romney presidency.
The choice is therefore stark, and so are the consequences. The American voters’ choice during these elections will have consequences that voters on either side will be happy or regretful to have voted in.