It’s been several months since I lasted posted! And unsurprisingly the deficit debate is still raging in Washington D.C., especially with the release of the new Ryan Plan. I thought I would take the time to present some of the data I collected during the course of my research.

I attempted to compile a list of all laws from 1979 to 2011 that resulted in a notable amount of legislative savings or deficit reduction. Some of the laws were not primarily motivated for the sake of deficit reduction alone, i.e. the large Reagan domestic spending cuts that occurred in 1981, nonetheless these laws did contribute to the eventual balancing of the budget that occurred in the late 90’s. The laws highlighted in red are generally considered the most significant deficit reduction measures.

It is interesting to note that at least in terms of frequency, the 1980’s were a real high point in deficit reduction efforts. After the passage of the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act/Omnibus Reconciliation Act under the first President Bush and the 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act under President Clinton, both of which were politically costly, the frequency dropped off sharply. Only a short part of this drop off can be explained by the four year long surplus from 1997 to 2000.

In the beginning of the 1980’s support for balanced deficit reduction was actually quite high among both parties, especially among Senate Republicans such as Bob Dole and Pete Domenici. Even though the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act was comprised mostly of tax hikes, it received widespread Republican support. Ironically Democrats were incredibly wary of the law, after being portrayed as tax and spend liberals in years prior. In a procedural oddity, House Democrats avoided the first vote and sent the Senate bill directly to conference. According to the CQ Almanac for 1982 the RNC committed $400,000 on political advertising to convince voters to call their Congressmen in support of the tax hike. President Reagan even issued letters to House Democrats worried about being painted as “tax and spend liberals,” thanking them for their support.


About alanhe802

Colgate University 2012 Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency
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