Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Have Republicans always been anti-government?

          Previous Republican presidents did not hesitate to invest tax money and use the power of government when the evidence supported doing so. Abraham Lincoln, a self-made man who said society needs wealthy people to encourage industry and enterprise in others, got Congress to fund the transcontinental railroad and, in the heat of the Civil War, signed the Morrill Act, which set aside land in each state on which to establish public universities. Theodore Roosevelt used the power of the federal government to manage our transition from an agricultural to an industrial society, limiting monopolies' power to fix prices and to abuse women and children in the workplace and protecting vast tracts of western lands from private development. Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System with tax dollars and sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce the Supreme Court's decision on school integration. Richard Nixon signed legislation establishing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the EPA, signed an executive order strengthening the federal affirmative action program, and for the first time since World War II imposed wage and price controls to fend off inflation.
          Even after the dawn of the antigovernment era, President Reagan signed budgets that restored a sizable portion of the revenues lost to his big tax cuts, including a bill that stabilized the Social Security system for twenty-five years by adjusting benefits and raising taxes. President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act; strong amendments to the Clean Air Act to limit smog, acid rain, and emissions of toxic chemicals; and the budget reforms of 1991, which restrained spending, established the PAYGO rule, and modestly raised taxes. And President George W. Bush supported the No Child Left Behind law; the senior citizens' drug benefit; President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which provided unprecedented American support for the global fight against AIDS and malaria; and large investments in nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the first three decades of the anti-government movement have been more anti-tax and anti-regulation than anti-spending.

Back To Work, Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy, by Bill Clinton, Knopf, 2011, p.30.

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