Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation this morning, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) enthusiastically called for a government shut down:
SALMON: I was here during the government shutdown in 1995. It was a divided government. we had a Democrat [sic] President of the United States. We had a Republican Congress. And I believe that that government shutdown actually gave us the impetus, as we went forward, to push toward some real serious compromise. I think it drove Bill Clinton in a different direction, a very bipartisan direction. In fact, we passed welfare reform for the first time ever, and we cut the welfare ranks in the last decade and a half by over 50%. These are good things. We also balanced the budget for the first time in 40 years in 1997, 1998, 1999. And when I left we had an over $230 billion surplus. This was with a Democrat [sic] president, A Republican —
HOST: You think that’s a good idea?
SALMON: Yes, I do. I really do. I think it’s about time!
Salmon’s theory, that the government shutdown somehow led to balanced budgets during President Clinton’s second term, was floated by Newt Gingrich in 2011, and it was no more true then than it is now.
Gingrich claimed that the shutdown led to the misleadingly named Balanced Budget Act of 1997, but the law was so laden down with conservative pet projects that it actually increased the budget deficit. In reality, the principal policy driver of the Clinton era surpluses was something that every single Republican in Congress voted against — the Clinton tax hikes on the rich. These surpluses, of course, were wiped out almost immediately after President George W. Bush took office, thanks to Bush’s tax cuts that largely benefited the very wealthy.