Bruce Bartlett: “the dirty secret is that Obama is a moderate conservative.”

by Ben Hoffman

Bruce Bartlett, former Reagan and H.W. Bush adviser, was on Hardball today. This is what he had to say:

When Bush took office, we had a debt of about $6 trillion. The projections from the CBO were that we were going to run a $6 trillion surplus. By this point, if we had done nothing, we would have paid off the debt, but we added about $3 trillion of tax cuts. We lost about $3 trillion of revenue because of the slower economy and added about $6 trillion of spending, largely due to two unfinished wars and a Medicare drug benefits and a lot of other things. So, instead of paying off the debt, we ended up with about a $14 trillion debt.


The dirty secret is that Obama is a moderate conservative. If I were a liberal democrat, I probably would be upset.

The Republicans keep saying the tax cuts are the key to prosperity. The 2000s are evidence that that is not true. We had booming economies in the 1980s and ’90s. If we went back to those taxes, we would be better off. I don’t see think any question we would have positive economic effects if we went back to the tax rates.

I think at this point, there’s nothing that can pass the House of Representatives. I think a good chunk of the Republican caucus is either stupid, crazy, ignorant or craven cowards, who are desperately afraid of the tea party people, and rightly so.

Watch the video

Reagan would be considered a liberal socialist by today’s GOP standards.

24 Responses to “Bruce Bartlett: “the dirty secret is that Obama is a moderate conservative.””

  1. Lower taxes generally do increase overall tax revenues. Low taxes alone are not enough. To truly keep the country humming along, we need a simplified tax code, removing all the loopholes drummed up through lobbyists creating more regulation and then winners and losers through legislation. We also need spending needs cut, and what spending there is needs to be spent on the right things. It is the established politicians on both sides of the aisle along with those in the media they are in bed with that hate the Tea Party so much. Remember, the Tea Party was birthed because people were fed up with the status quo. Now it is the status quo that make it clear that it hates the Tea Party.

    • Lower taxes do NOT generally increase overall tax revenues. Revenues rise under lower taxes because the economy grows and the population expands (barring Great Recessions caused by under-regulation and 1920s-style Wall Street greed).

      What IS true is that lower taxes balloon the federal debt. So take your pick: Lower taxes, higher debts. Keep tax rates; less debt. Hike taxes (like Bush 1 and Clinton), destroy the debt (2000 surplus). We have a huge revenue problem from 30 years of tax cutting that has our tax rates the lowest since the 1950s. We’d be much better off with the traditional tax rates under Reagan and Clinton.

      Today’s Republican Party hates America and doesn’t want to support the troops or pay taxes like our forebears did to make this country great. Love it or leave it, assholes.

  2. Wow Ben. There is an articulate response. Since I will assume when you say “teabaggers”, you do not mean it literally and it is simply an insult to those of us who identify ourselves with the Tea Party movement, why do you think I am an idiot?

    • Why do I think you’re an idiot? Maybe because you believe the ridiculous mantra that low taxes increases revenues. There is absolutely no evidence to support that. And the Tea Party was “birthed” by Dick Armey and the Koch brothers. You’re just pawns in their game to privatize everything and increase corporate profits, which is destroying America.

  3. LOL. Thanks for the laugh, Ben. I needed that. Lower taxes generally have been associated with higher tax revenues, but it not that simple. There are many other factors involved that will influence the result.

    As for Dick Armey and the Koch brothers… candidates on all sides will receive funds from many scrupulous characters. Some candidates enter the fray already corrupt, and others later fall to the corruption. But some within the movement are true to their principles. Many outside forces will attempt to maneuver the movement to their own ends, but to say I am a “pawn” because I subscribe to the general ideals associated with the Tea Party is a poor presumption on your part. I can not control your prejudices as they must be based on your personal experiences, but I can assure you that I operate of my own free will and I am constantly searching out additional information. I especially seek out information that conflicts and challenges my very beliefs, and as I use that information to expand my knowledge, I refine my views. I enter the conversation with a core set of values, but an open mind. Can you honestly claim the same?

    • Lower taxes generally have been associated with higher tax revenues

      As George H.W. Bush called that “Voodoo economics.” Lower taxes do not and have not ever produced greater revenues. Bush Jr. cut taxes and we had enormous deficits. Reagan cut taxes and we had enormous deficits. Clinton increased taxes and we had balanced budgets.

      S, what is your main source for news?

  4. Ben, thank you for the discussion.

    You can look this all up yourself through our Treasury at

    You can see that each year that Clinton was in office our debt increased. Social Security was taking in more money than it was paying out to retirees, so it was running at surplus. The Social Security Administration is legally required to take all its surpluses and buy U.S. Government securities. Those government securities become intragovernmental Holdings and part of our national debt. The government was still running deficits, but since there was so much excess money coming from Social Security contributions there was no need to borrow more money otherwise. So, the public debt went down while intragovernmental holdings continued to grow. The growth of the intragovernmental holdings exceeded the reduction of the public debt, so our national debt continued to grow throughout his administration.

    • SS continues to bring in a surplus. That’s true that our debt continued to grow under Clinton, but there were still budget surpluses. You can nitpick all you want, but the evidence shows Clinton’s policies to be far greater than Reagan’s or either of the Bush’s.

  5. Lower taxes generally do increase overall tax revenues.

    Ben, I applaud your patience when dealing with arguments that do not bear much congruence with reality.

  6. The reality is that one can not accurately say how tax rates alone effect tax revenue. It is truly the economy as a whole that will determine the amount of tax revenues that the government receives. Interest rates also factor into the equation, as well as many other external factors that may effect the economy.

    If you believe in supply-side economics, then it makes sense to have a lower marginal tax rate to increase the likelihood people will work harder to earn more money. The more money being earned, the more tax revenue that will come of it. If more people are earning more money, they are likely to spend more money creating a greater demand for products. Since products normally do not make and sell themselves, people must work to produce more and be available to assist with the transactions. This provides more opportunity for people to work, thus earn income, thus pay taxes.

    Of course, increasing the tax rate does not always reduce tax revenue, nor does decreasing the tax rate always increase tax revenue. It all depends on whether the current tax rate is above or below the tax rate where tax revenue maxes out. Finding that point is very difficult, due to all the other factors that come into play.

    • You’re living in a dreamworld, S. Cutting taxes on the wealthy doesn’t do anything to stimulate the economy. They can already afford to buy everything they want.

  7. Freddy boy, love your passion, but name calling diminished what credibility you had. Although there was very little left after your statement that the “Republican Party hates America and doesn’t want to support the troops”. By the way, I love America, which is why I engage people and attempt to shed a little light into their lives. 🙂

    First, you obviously ignored my follow up explanation about lower taxes, but I would expect nothing less. People on the left generally avoid any information that contradicts with their views. There are many factors involved that determine whether tax revenues increase or decrease. It basically comes down to whether one believes in supply-side economics or not. I tend to, you would tend not to. It can not be summed up simply in terms of higher taxes or lower taxes, because 100% tax rate would generate the same amount of tax revenue as a 0% tax rate.

    You stated “lower taxes balloon the federal debt”, but in reality it is excessive spending that balloons the federal debt.

    Clinton’s tax rates were not excessive, but it is a myth that we ran a surplus while he was president. When money is spent from the multiple trust funds that the government has, social security being the largest, that money is still owed. The overall Federal Debt went up each fiscal year during the Clinton administration. He did come close in the year 2000 to having a surplus, though. If you think the argument going on is about taxes, that is only a small part of it. The main part of the argument is about spending. Our country needs to do less of it.

    I, as most Tea Party identifiers, are for closing out loopholes imbedded in our tax codes. Although I like the idea of the Fair Tax, I am not opposed to a progressive tax system, just not one that blatantly punishes success.

    • You stated “lower taxes balloon the federal debt”, but in reality it is excessive spending that balloons the federal debt.

      Nope, that’s the right-wing talking point. We elect representatives to enact legislation that often requires funding. Republicans repeatedly have cut taxes that would have paid for those programs, with the anti-democratic intention of destroying those programs. So instead, we have to borrow the money.

      We also have two wars started by Republicans that haven’t been paid for and the defense department budget has doubled since 2000. We had Bush’s stimulus that was nearly a trillion dollars that added to debt, as well as the bailouts. The Tea Party doesn’t have a problem with that, but spend some money on our country’s infrastructure and you people have a hissy-fit.

  8. Ben, please attempt to concentrate on what is right, and not just who is right. You seem primarily interested in winning the argument and not on finding solutions. How about we find some common ground, agree on what we can, and then work from there?

    You say that “We elect representatives to enact legislation that often requires funding.” That cuts to the heart of our differences. We do not need more legislation, more government, and more spending, but that is precisely what we keep getting.

    The Tea Party movement was born because of George Bush’s stimulus and the bailout of Wall Street. Our debt has reached a level that is so high with interest payments alone being so great that we can not simply tax our way out of it. The only way to reduce the debt to a manageable number is to cut spending. I wholeheartedly agree that part of the reduction in spending needs to come from Defense. We do need to spend more money in our country and not sent to prop of foreign governments that do not even have our values of freedom.

    Can we at least agree until we get this debt under control, that we need to cut spending? Can we agree that the loopholes in our tax code need removed and we need to simplify it?

    If we can agree on these things, then we can debate on what needs cut and how the tax code should be arranged. Maybe we can cut through some of the noise and find we agree on other things as well. Then, on those things we disagree on, we can have a civil discussion and learn from one another.

    • The Tea Party was born because Dick Armey organized it. You teabaggers didn’t have a problem with the debt until you were told to be outraged over it AFTER Bush left office. Now you blame it on “spending” when spending hasn’t really increased that much under Obama.

      Taxes need to be increased to get the deficits under control. Simple as that. Our country’s infrastructure is in shambles. Our economy is on the verge of collapse. It’s like owning a house and not wanting to pay for upkeep. You’re brainwashed into being against the wealthy paying into the system that allowed them the opportunity to get rich. You’re against protecting our environment. You’re against regulation that keeps our economy stable. You’re against protecting workers rights. You’re against any kind of service provided by the government, purely on principle. You’re like a robot that only can do what he’s told to do.

  9. Wow, Ben. It is hard to fathom someone can be as ignorant as you. You either are just having fun rambling nonsense, or worse, actually believe what you are saying. Either way, you do not have to worry about me dropping by your blog anymore. You are too lacking intellectually for me to bother.

  10. Ben, you drink to muchj koolaid, the gongressional record, and the US Treasurey both dispute your claims……try getting facts from a source other than CNN

  11. Ben, when you can list links to back up your claims people will take you much more serious, rather than someone parroting the left

  12. Definitely believe that that you said. Your favorite reason appeared to
    be on the net the easiest thing to remember of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while other folks think about issues that they just don’t know
    about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the whole thing without having side-effects , folks can take a signal.
    Will probably be back to get more. Thank you


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