Home > political-economy > Sorry progressives, the Bush tax cuts did not kill the economy

Sorry progressives, the Bush tax cuts did not kill the economy

United States Gross Domestic Product (Gold) 1929-2009

A quick note to slap down the standard progressive interpretation of the impact of the Bush tax cuts on the economy. Sorry folks, there is no real empirical support for your position.

Progressives who praise the Clinton era job creation performance versus Bush era job creation performance, and link this to Clinton tax increases versus Bush tax cuts, overlook two things that lead to the wrong conclusion: First, the Clinton job performance came during a time of a general economic expansion, Bush’s performance came during a general contraction. This fact is lost in the data because the data employs dollars as measure of economic activity and so masks the depression that began in 2001. If you discount the dollar denominated economic data using the price of gold, the contraction clearly shows up beginning in late 2000.

The second thing overlooked with this comparison is that Clinton era job creation (not “Clinton job creation” or “Bush job creation” — the two men created nothing) was exactly the wrong policy. The Clinton era succeeded in creating jobs, true. But it was creating jobs into the face of rising imports from China and other low wage nations and a general glut of capital on the world market. The depression did not appear suddenly because of the Bush tax cuts, but resulted in a too long social work day leading into the Bush era. To put this another way, the Bush era’s poor legacy creating jobs was a legacy of the Clinton era’s success at creating too much superfluous work.

The Bush tax cuts came in response to this, which was already evident as he began his term, and was his justification for the tax cuts. Progressives don’t want us to remember why Bush demanded the tax cuts, but some of us do not have such a short memory. This is not a whitewash of the Bush tax cuts; clearly they failed entirely to stop the depression from emerging and gaining steam — but they did not create the depression. Nor, were they responsible for poor job creation during the Bush and Obama years. It was already baked into the cake by overaccumulation of capital.

For those who are interested, as proof of my argument, I include the chart above showing GDP as measured by gold between 1929-2009. In the chart you can see clearly the three depressions that occurred over those years: 1929-1934, 1970-1981, and 2001-present.

The problem is not, and has never been, Republican anti-tax policies versus Democrat social spending policies — both are a sideshow to chronic overaccumulation of capital. Tax policy cannot fix this.

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  1. Threecrow
    August 18, 2011 at 10:46 am | #1

    I bet a good Samarian King would know what to do.
    Those statues are spooky but they knew what was what.
    Peace.

  2. September 16, 2011 at 7:38 am | #2

    But the tax cuts helped to run up the public debt even faster.

  3. September 20, 2011 at 3:43 pm | #3

    No bankers destroyed the world economy. Bush tax cuts increased the debt and lowered US revenue.

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