Published January 13, 2015
By Peter FerraraDirector, Entitlement and Budget Policy, Institute for Policy Innovation
President Reagan's economic recovery plan included four specific components on which he explicitly campaigned over and over and then implemented once elected.
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1. Reductions in tax ratesto restore incentives for economic growth.This consisted of, first, a reduction in the top income tax rate of 70% down to 50%, and then a 25% across the board reduction in income tax rates for everyone. The 1986 tax reform then reduced tax rates further, leaving just two rates, 28% and 15%. Reagan also cut corporate income tax rates and capital gains tax rates
2. Spending Reductions.The reductions included a $31 billion cut in spending in 1981, close to 5% of the federal budget then, or the equivalent of about $150 billion in spending cuts for the year in 2008. In constant dollars, non-defense discretionary spending declined by 14.4% from 1981 to 1982, and by 16.8% from 1981 to 1983. Moreover, in constant dollars, this non-defense discretionary spending never returned to its 1981 level for the rest of Reagan's two terms!By 1988, this spending was still down 14.4% from its 1981 level in constant dollars. Even with the Reagan defense buildup, total federal spending declined from a high of 23.5% of GDP in 1983 to 21.3% in 1988 and 21.2% in 1989. That's a real reduction in the size of government relative to the economy of 10%
3. Anti-inflation monetary policy to restrain money supply growth.
4. Deregulation. Reagan's deregulation plan has now saved consumers an estimated $100 billion per year in lower prices. Reagan's first executive order, in fact, eliminated price controls on oil and natural gas. Production soared, and the price of oil declined by over 50%.
The results were spectacular. These four components produced a 25-year economic boom from 1982 to 2007. In their new book, "The End of Prosperity," Art Laffer and Steve Moore call the these years "the greatest period of wealth creation in the history of the planet." They note that -- adjusted for inflation-- more wealth and income was created during this Reagan boom than in any other prior period in U.S. history. That's right, than any other entire period dating from President George Washington all the way up to Ronald Reagan.
But Barack Obama is doing exactly the opposite on each of these four points:
--He is still promising tax rate increases, at least by letting the Bush tax cuts expire.
--He just passed the greatest increase in government spending in the history of the planet.
--He is promising massive increases in regulatory burdens, including global warming cap and trade regulation that would cost the economy another trillion dollars a year.
--The Fed is already furiously reinflating the money supply, sowing seeds of further havoc in the future.
Even the Obama tax cuts do not follow the Reagan economic recovery plan because they are not reductions in tax rates, which is what drives the incentives that govern the economy.
A reduction in tax rates increases incentives by allowing people to keep a higher percentage of what they earn from productive activity. But Obama's tax cuts are all based on tax credits, which do nothing to improve incentives. They are really just the same as his government spending in terms of their effect on the economy, just like sending more welfare checks out to everyone.
At AmericanSolutions.com, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has proposed an updated version of the Reagan economic recovery program for today. It includes, among other items, a reduction in the federal corporate income tax rate from 35% to the 12.5% rate that over the past 20 years has lifted the standard of living in Ireland from the bottom of the EU to the top. It would eliminate the capital gains tax to match rates in China, Singapore, and other international competitors -- a move that would entice capital investment from the world over to America. It would provide middle class tax relief by reducing the 25% income tax bracket to 15%, establishing a flat rate tax of 15% for close to 90% of American workers. Gingrich also proposes that a cut in the payroll tax by 50% for 2 years. He also proposes that our government work to control government spending to balance the budget, something Gingrich himself achieved when he was Speaker of the House. Under his plan, the United States would also adopt a real, comprehensive energy program that would allow production of domestic U.S. oil and natural gas, as well as nuclear power, clean coal, ethanol, and renewable fuels.
Obama keeps saying he is only interested in what works, not ideology. So why doesn't he include any of the above components that have a proven track record of effectiveness? Why is our president ignoring what works and insisting on embracing an ideology that will simply expand big government?