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By the Numbers

November 9, 2012

In the previous post (The 20-20 Coalition) I said it is both obvious and, for all intents and purposes, agreed upon by both parties that the federal government should collect and spend about 20% of GDP. No need to take my word for this. The numbers tell the story rather succinctly.

This is the percent of GDP (the whole economy) collected by the feds.

Reagan: 19, 18, 17, 18, 18, 18, 18, 18

Bush: 18, 18, 18, 18

Clinton: 18, 18, 19, 19, 20, 20, 21, 20

Bush: 18, 16, 16, 17, 18, 18, 18, 15

Obama: 15, 15, 16, 17

So Republicans typically collect 18% of GDP in taxes and Clinton collected just over 19% of GDP in taxes. The last four, very low, numbers are of course due to the financial crisis. (Obama is NOT a tax-cutting machine: revenues are down and taxes have been cut on top of that in an effort to stimulate the economy.)

Looking at these collections numbers, you might conclude that this new political party I am proposing should be called the 18-18 Coalition instead of the 20-20 Coalition. But wait! Let’s look at the other half of our federal government: spending.

This is the percent of GDP spent by the feds.

Reagan: 23, 24, 22, 23, 23, 22, 21, 21

Bush: 22, 22, 22, 21

Clinton: 21, 21, 20, 20, 19, 19, 18, 18

Bush: 19, 20, 20, 20, 20, 20, 21, 25

Obama: 24, 24, 23, 23

The Republican pre-crisis spending average is just over 21% compared to Clinton’s 19.5% average. The post-crisis numbers starting with Bush’s 25% in his last year and continuing with the three 24’s posted by Obama are, again, crisis fallout. (The budget jumped suddenly to 25% of GDP when the crisis hit and will remain dangerously high until normal growth returns.)

Liberals and conservatives will undoubtedly spar over the crisis for years to come. But, if you are willing to look at just a few numbers, one thing is certain: 16% tax collections and 24% spending won’t work. I haven’t heard of anyone starting a 16-24 Coalition! Have you?

At 20-20, we spend slightly less than we have historically spent while taxing slightly more. We get a balanced budget. 20-20 is the place to be, and it’s bloody obvious.

Get this straight conservatives: I am talking about spending LESS than Republicans have historically spent and taxing ONLY enough to balance the budget. For you liberals: 20-20 is in line with what we did during the Clinton years; plus, you get a government that can operate without being constantly maligned as a debt-creating monster.

Are you with me?

Are you a rabid Bachmann-worshipping right-winger? A bleeding-heart Kuccinich-loving lefty? Somewhere in between? It doesn’t matter who you are: 20-20 makes sense for anyone.

We aren’t going to get there tomorrow, but we should clearly, obviously, of course, no question about it shoot for it. What do we say to political leaders who don’t want to aim for 20-20? One word. Treason.

Join me; I will treat you well.

Our motto: 20-20 OR ELSE. (Yes, it’s a threat, but not of violence, just of being made irrelevant).

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