I never cease to be frustrated that the current public policy debate is described as a contest of ideas: fiscal conservatives versus liberals. It is not just Republicans or Tea Partiers who believe that they are fiscal conservatives, no doubt sincerely. Democrats and liberals seem to accept this characterization at face value, as does most of the media.
The problem is that a heavy majority of the supposed fiscally conservative congressmen, although passionate about cutting government spending in the abstract, are in truth no better able to find specific dollars of budget cuts that they can support or defend to their constituents than are the Democrats. Factoring in their immutable desire to cut taxes, I believe that if the Republicans were in full control, we would have larger budget deficits in the coming years than if the Obama crowd retained power. This is what happened in a big way when Presidents Reagan and GW Bush took office promising to cut the debt while also cutting taxes. Spending, deficits, and debt soared during their terms, relative to their respective Democratic predecessors. There is no reason to think anything has changed.
A panel on Supply Side Economics in Washington, September 12, included statistics on the superior performance of the American economy under President Clinton compared to his Republican successor. (The graph to the right, from Ettlinger & Irons, shows the first term of each administration. The growth gap during the second terms was even wider.) Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers gave some statistics that included Democratic versus Republican presidents throughout the postwar period. As others have also pointed out, the Democratic record dominates to a surprising extent. (The event was jointly sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute.)