Do Dem or Rep presidents most help the poor?

Dec. 3, 2012

By John Seiler

Sometimes I wonder if people can think anymore.

Today the L.A. Times ran an op-ed piece, “Why the poor favor Democrats.” Subheadline: “Data show unequivocally that minorities do better under Democratic administrations than under Republican ones.” It’s by Zoltan Hajnal, a poli sci prof at UC San Diego, and Jeremy D. Horowitz, a doctoral student at the school. They write:

“The data we analyzed show unequivocally that minorities fare better under Democratic administrations than under Republican ones. Census data tracking annual changes in income, poverty and unemployment over the last five decades tell a striking story about the relationship between the president’s party and minority well-being.

“Under Democratic presidents, the incomes of black families grew by an average of $895 a year, but only by $142 a year under Republicans. Across 26 years of Democratic leadership, unemployment among blacks declined by 7.9%; under 28 years of Republican presidencies, the rate increased by a net of 13.7%. Similarly, the black poverty rate fell by 23.6% under Democratic presidents and rose by 3% under Republicans.”

But they overlook two crucial things: First, it’s Congress, not the president, that passes budgets and other legislation. The president proposes, the Congress disposes, as the old line has it.

In the past 50 years, here’s what happened: In the early 1960s, Congress was controlled by Southern Democrats — the “Solid South.” After shedding segregationism, they later switched and became today’s Republican-controlled South.

Anyway, in the early 1960s, the most powerful Democrat on finances was Harry F. Bird, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. As Robert Caro recounts in the latest volume of his biography of Lyndon Johnson, “The Passage of Power,” in early 1964, just after President Kennedy was assassinated, new president LBJ was pushing for the Kennedy tax cuts, which dropped the top income tax rate from 91 percent to 70 percent.

“Old Harry,” as Byrd was called, balked until LBJ cut $5 billion in spending to effectively balance the budget. LBJ, who later became a massive spendthrift, agreed. The tax and spending cuts were passed — and the massive 1960s economic boom zoomed upward.

Caro’s book ends in early 1964. But in 1968, with his Great Society welfare waste and the Vietnam War costs escalating, LBJ pushed through a 10 percent income surtax. It slammed the economy in 1969 — when Richard Nixon was president. LBJ even forced Nixon to pledge not to end the surtax. Nixon also increased taxes on his own in 1969, at the behest of Sen. Teddy Kennedy. And in 1971, Nixon took America off the gold standard, raised taxes and imposed protectionism with his Nixon Shock.

The economy crashed in 1974 into the 1970s “malaise” economy of “stagflation” — stagnation plus inflation.

Then there was Bill Clinton, who increased taxes in 1993 — but not by much, and with bare majorities in each house of Congress, In 1994, Congress went Republican. It was this Congress that passed three capital gains tax cuts between 1996 and 2000, as well as welfare reform. To his credit, Clinton signed those bills. But the key, again, was Congress.

Only one good GOP prez

The second thing the poli sci experts failed to note was that, on growth economics, the Democrats have had two-and-a-half presidents who were pretty good: Kennedy, Johnson (until 1968) and Clinton. And they had two who were bad: Carter and Obama.

But Republicans had only one who was good: Reagan. His tax cuts and stable money boosted the economy for everybody. As our colleague Joseph Perkins detailed:

“But the reality is, the 1980s, with a conservative, free-market Republican in the White House, were a boom time for black America.

“Indeed, Andrew Brimmer, the Harvard-trained black economist, the former Federal Reserve Board member, estimated that total black business receipts increased from $12.4 billion in 1982 to $18.1 billion in 1987, translating into an annual average growth rate of 7.9 percent (compared to 5 percent for all U.S. businesses.

“The success of the black entrepreneurial class during the Reagan era was rivaled only by the gains of the black middle class.

“In fact, black social scientist Bart Landry estimated that that upwardly mobile cohort grew by a third under Reagan’s watch, from 3.6 million in 1980 to 4.8 million in 1988. His definition was based on employment in white-collar jobs as well as on income levels.

“All told, the middle class constituted more than 40 percent of black households by the end of Reagan’s presidency, which was larger than the size of black working class, or the black poor.

“The impressive growth of the black middle class during the 1980s was attributable in no small part to the explosive growth of jobs under Reagan, which benefited blacks disproportionately.

“Indeed, between 1982 and 1988, total black employment increased by 2 million, a staggering sum. That meant that blacks gained 15 percent of the new jobs created during that span, while accounting for only 11 percent of the working-age population.

“Meanwhile, the black jobless rate was cut by almost half between 1982 and 1988. Over the same span, the black employment rate – the percentage of working-age persons holding jobs – increased to record levels, from 49 percent to 56 percent.”

GOP duds

The other Republican presidents all were terrible. We’ve discussed Nixon. Ford continued Nixon’s high-tax, high-spending, anti-gold standard policies. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush broke his 1988 “Read my lips! No new taxes!” pledge, increased taxes, tanked the economy, and was replaced by Clinton.

George W. Bush was a complete disaster economically. Inheriting budget surpluses from Clinton, he went on a massive spending binge and bankrupted the country. His tax cuts, foolishly, were temporary — hence the battles over “extending the Bush tax cuts” that have brought contention and economic uncertainty to the economy. And Bush allowed Fed chairmen Greenspan and Bernanke to inflate the currency, while keeping interest rates close to zero — effectively destroying the savings of the middle class.

Meanwhile, after Republicans took over the U.S. House in 2011, they refused to insist on permanent tax cuts and an end to Obama’s own deficits, which have topped $1 trillion each of his four years in office.

Obviously the poor — and everyone else — are helped by sensible economic policies, and hurt by foolish ones. But the context is crucial.

As Bill Clinton said at this year’s Democratic National Convention: Do the math.




Write a comment
  1. Skippingdog
    Skippingdog 3 December, 2012, 10:54

    That’s easy. It’s been the Democratic presidents who’ve done the most for the poor and elderly for at leas the last 80 years.

    Reply this comment
  2. Tax Target
    Tax Target 3 December, 2012, 11:29

    Hey Skippy – It was a Republican who freed the slaves… I guess maybe the dems have some guilt.

    Reply this comment
  3. Skippingdog
    Skippingdog 3 December, 2012, 11:55

    Not at all. A. Lincoln did the right thing and began the process of correcting a basic flaw in our national history. What happened to the Republican party during the four-score and ten years that followed him?

    Why were Republican standard bearers like Barry Goldwater opposed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and Johnson’s war on poverty?

    Why did Republicans oppose the creation of Social Security?

    Why did Republicans oppose the Wagner Act?

    Why did Republicans press through the Taft-Hartley Act as soon as they had the votes to do so?

    It’s most interesting that the party begun to abolish slavery was on the wrong side of that same argument for most of the 20th Century, don’t you think?

    Reply this comment
  4. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 3 December, 2012, 12:29

    Almost 50 years ago Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” set the country on a course to eradicate poverty. Trillions of dollars later we have higher poverty rates than 50 years ago, plus a host of social problems made worse by the “War on Poverty” itself (fatherless households, alarming school dropout rates, violent crime, chronically high unemployment etc.) This would suggest that the sainted poor aren’t very good judges of their own long term best interest when they vote for Democrats. Somehow that doesn’t seem surprising.

    Here’s a question for all of you tender hearted Welfare Statists out there – Why do we have to care about the poor when they don’t reciprocate by caring about us? When was the last time a poor person showed their gratitude to the rest of us by doing something for us for free? When was the last time a poor person approached you on the street to thank you for paying their food bill, subsidizing their rent or paying for their kids education? Where is the Million Poor Man March on D.C. to express their gratitude for all the free stuff?

    When the poor organize to express themselves it’s always at the behest of their “progressive” puppet masters and is always done to complain about their victimhood and demand more free stuff. The intergenerational poor are largely responsible for their own predicament and have little sense of gratitude, humility or shame. Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme is all we ever hear from them. The permanently poor are mostly just ignorant, greedy, parasitic, self destructive losers. That makes them perfect Democrats 🙂

    Reply this comment
  5. us citizen
    us citizen 3 December, 2012, 13:17

    Good one Dyspeptic. All they do is complain, mostly out of jealousy, I would assume.

    And skipping dog………WHY on earth would anyone think SS is a good thing!!!! Let the people save their own money and invest it how they want to. If they dont or cant, then it is THEIR fault, not the rest of us, who own up to our own responsibility. And WHY does the govt think they know what is best for us? By the looks of things, they know NOTHING and are as bad as the leaches who want more and more.

    The govt was never set up to be your daddy. Its time they started acting like it and leaving us alone. Maybe if they actually had to go to work and make a real living like the rest of us, they would finally get it.

    Reply this comment
  6. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 3 December, 2012, 13:23

    “Lincoln did the right thing and began the process of correcting a basic flaw in our national history.”

    Still peddling the myth that Lincoln fought the War of Secession to free the slaves? Wrong again SkipDog. Lincoln himself stated numerous times that the primary purpose of the war was to forcibly maintain the supposedly “Sacred Union”. Here are some historical facts about your devious, warmongering, Machiavellian Big Business lawyer Lincoln that you won’t get from some lame Hollyweird movie:

    He repeatedly supported the continuation of slavery as a permanent institution in an attempt to maintain The Federal Union.

    He was a life long racial separatist who wanted to deal with the “problem” of freed blacks by colonization, i.e. shipping them all back to Africa or off to Haiti.

    He repeatedly spoke and wrote sentiments to the effect that blacks were inherently inferior to whites and should never be allowed to hold public office or be treated like full citizens.

    The famous Emancipation Proclamation freed absolutely no slaves because it only applied to the secessionist states where he had no actual ability to enforce it. Slavery was still legal in The North under Federal law until the 13th amendment passed and contrary to Hollywood balderdash, Lincoln had to be pressured to support it by hardcore abolitionists in Congress.

    He was indirectly responsible for the horrific violence against thousands of innocent African Americans who were savagely attacked in northern cities during the very ugly conscription riots that resulted from his completely corrupt and constitutionally dubious forced enlistment (unless you were rich) policies.

    There are many more criticisms that could be aimed at the megalomaniacal Lincoln, but the point is he wasn’t the icon of racial equality that is commonly portrayed by the witless popular media. BY THE STANDARDS OF TODAY LINCOLN WOULD BE CONSIDERED A VILE AND DESPICABLE RACIST.

    Reply this comment
  7. Skippingdog
    Skippingdog 3 December, 2012, 15:07

    The poverty rate in the U.S. was over 22% in 1959 and began dropping as Great Society programs were implemented. It got as low as slightly over 11% in 1979 before the Republicans returned to national office with Reagan.

    This information is very easy to find if you’re at all interested in the truth.

    Lincoln certainly didn’t begin the war with the intention of abolishing slavery, but the Republican Party itself was created with the primary purpose of abolition and Lincoln was its first national candidate. To claim he didn’t care about slavery ignores history. The states eventually comprising the CSA began their secession movement upon Lincoln’s election. If you read the debates over secession in places like South Carolina and Texas you’ll find that the fear over the pending abolition of slavery was their primary concern and motivating factor.

    Lincoln, like all people, was a man of his time and his thoughts on racial separation reflected the most progressive and classical liberal thoughts of the day.

    You’re correct that the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, but there were no efforts to expand slavery in the north anyway. The years leading up to the Civil War best exemplify the rising tensions over slavery with “Bloody Kansas” being the flashpoint over such possible expansion.

    I’m always amused when our neo-Confederates jump in and claim the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. There’s no evidence or reputable historian who would support such an outlandish claim.

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 3 December, 2012, 17:52

    The poverty rate in the U.S. was over 22% in 1959 and began dropping as Great Society programs were implemented. It got as low as slightly over 11% in 1979 before the Republicans returned to national office with Reagan.

    #1- Nixon and Ford were in office from 68-76, which destorys your idiotic timeline;

    #2- The Congress, House and Senate, were 100% Democrtic majority when Ronnie Raygun was President form 80-88.

    Reply this comment
  9. Skippingdog
    Skippingdog 3 December, 2012, 18:03

    Are you starting to fixate on me again, Rex?

    Reply this comment
  10. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 3 December, 2012, 19:14

    Actually SkipDog you have your poverty history a little skewed. The charts I see based on Census Bureau data show a steep decline in poverty rates WELL BEFORE the so called Great Society programs were fully implemented, with most of the decline in poverty occurring BEFORE 1966.

    This same Census Bureau data shows that our poverty rate today is essentially identical to what it was in 1966 despite the $ trillions spent to eradicate it. So much for your bogus hypothesis about LBJ’s Not So Great Society programs alleviating poverty. Think about it, why would self interested poverty bureaucrats want to abolish the very thing that provides the raison d’etre for their jobs?

    It’s also interesting to note that poverty rates declined substantially in the early 1960’s and again during the 80’s even though top marginal tax rates were cut dramatically during those times. Oops, that doesn’t fit the poverty pimp narrative either.

    Reply this comment
  11. Hondo
    Hondo 3 December, 2012, 19:40

    The main reason I have left the Democratic party is that i believe their policies are genocidal to young black men. They are being killed and imprisoned at insane rates. And I believe the polices of Democrats are at fault.
    Before the 1965 civil right bills, the democratic party was the party of the Bull Connor racists and the KKK ( which was a part of the Democratic party.) The republican for a hundred years starting at the civil war, tried to get equal rights. The Bull Connor Dems stopped them every time. It was the Republicans who led the way to the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills. Remember, John Kennedy voted against the 1957 civil rights bill.
    After 1965 the Dems turned to the welfare state which destroyed the black family. All those precincts in the election that went 100% Obama are dead zones for Blacks. No jobs, no economy of any kind. Only Obama phones and welfare.
    80% of all money spent on welfare goes to the bureaucracy. Only a fraction of it hits the poor’s hands.

    Reply this comment
  12. Skippingdog
    Skippingdog 3 December, 2012, 23:05

    Read about how the poverty rate has changed over time.

    Reply this comment
  13. Skippingdog
    Skippingdog 3 December, 2012, 23:22

    Southern Democrats were certainly very racist and segregationist from the end of the Civil War through the middle of the 20th Century, Hondo. On that there’s no real dispute. After the northern Democrats aligned with the moderate Republicans, lead by Sen. Dirksen of Illinois, to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Johnson was widely quoted as saying he’d “lost the South for the Democratic Party for at least a generation.”

    After the Civil Rights Act was passed, a number of the old Southern Democrats began migrating to the Republican Party, leading Richard Nixon and his colleagues to develop the “Southern Strategy” for claiming those disaffected, white, southern voters who felt betrayed by the Democratic Party’s open support for further expanding the civil rights of blacks and other groups. In 1964, Barry Goldwater ran for president on a platform opposing the Civil Rights Act, in a campaign where Ronald Reagan rose to national political prominence by supporting Goldwater and his policies.

    By any reasonable measure, the shift of the “Solid South” from Democratic to Republican in the 1960’s was and remains a direct result of the national democratic support for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. When you hear a former Democrat turned Republican say they changed parties because their former party left them, what they’re really saying is their former party betrayed them by supporting the Civil Rights Act.

    Reply this comment
  14. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 3 December, 2012, 23:51

    Actually SkipDog you have your poverty history a little skewed.

    LOL…everything skippy posts is a little skewed, but he can’t help it, copy and paste is his only response….and nearly always wrong.

    Reply this comment
  15. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 4 December, 2012, 08:03

    You ARE becoming fixated on me again, aren’t you Rex? Am I going to need to get a restraining order?

    Reply this comment
  16. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 4 December, 2012, 08:21

    You might need your lawyer for the deposition I take of you in your lawsuit 😉

    Who knows maybe there will be anoither lawsuit in your future- try me 😉

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment

Leave a Reply

Related Articles

Earth to Brown: Ed Spending Is Up

Steven Greenhut: Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan spares education because of the supposedly severe cuts that the state’s public education

Contra Costa County government scandal: Third World R Us?

It’s long been common in politics for one side to comment on how alleged wrongdoing is covered by the media

‘Anti-science policies’ seen as factor in CA water crisis

Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive order mandating decreased water use prompted national and international attention. All coverage understandably emphasized the