Popular Economics Weekly
Those were President Trump’s words on the $3.2 trillion in tax cuts enacted by the Republican majority congress before Christmas. “These are the biggest tax cuts in history, even bigger than President Reagan’s.” He’s right that they will be wonderful for corporations, and the highest income earners, but not for most of U.S.
So President Trump will have to show that these cuts continue to create jobs. He has promised 10 million jobs in the first four years. The numbers are looking good in his first year, the ninth year of this economic recovery from the Great Recession. But one ingredient is lacking; government job creation. Federal government job rolls shrank during Trump’s first 11 months, and history shows that governments have to hire enough to keep up the job numbers, and provide essential services that aid economic growth.
The real problem is tax cuts have never created many jobs. Though accounting for job creation under the various presidential administrations is tricky since business cycles don’t match presidential terms, they provide a superficial look at which tax policies have worked best.
Taxes were raised during President Clinton’s eight years with 20, 966,000 private payroll jobs created. President Reagan comes in second at 14,717,000, but had to raise taxes 11 times to reduce the ballooning deficit caused by the tax cuts. The difference is that Clinton had no recessions during his terms, while Reagan had two during his early years. But taxes were raised in both cases to create more jobs, in part to fund enough government jobs that are needed to create a fully employed economy.
Under Clinton, 1,934,000 public sector jobs (i.e., federal and state) were created, and 1,414,000 under President Reagan, whereas federal jobs declined 14,000 in Trump’s first 11 months, according to the Washington Post.
Graph: Calculated Risk
President Obama actually lost jobs during his first months as president due to the Great Recession, but ended up with 1,937,000 jobs in his first term and 11,756,000 jobs over eight years. And government payrolls actually declined 268,000 during Obama’s eight years due to a number of factors; which was when Republicans took over control of the House in 2010 and cut federal spending when they cared about deficits.
Alas, that is no longer so, as the new tax bill is actually programmed to add $1.5 trillion to the national debt, and President Trump wants to reduce government budgets by 30 percent in 2018.
It will not create the necessary jobs to keep job rolls full and deficits down. Government spending is necessary to fund all the programs that the private cannot or will not, including health care, public infrastructure, education, and R&D that fund future prosperity.
How did we build our highway system, go to the moon, and create the Internet? With government spending. But that was done before 1980 when government became the problem for Republicans and tax cuts the answer.
Now it seems that budget deficits are no longer a problem for Republicans, and President Trump is counting on those 10 million new jobs to justify the tax cuts. He may be off to a good start, but it is the ninth year of this recovery cycle, and the post- World War II record is ten years that included President Clinton’s term.
Harlan Green © 2018
Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen