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Rand Paul vs. the '90s

Add the economic legacy of the 1990s to the list of things Rand Paul thinks he understands, but doesn't.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul address attendees during the Republican National Committee spring meeting at the Peabody hotel in Memphis, Tenn., on May 9, 2014. (Photo by William DeShazer/The Commercial Appeal/AP)
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul address attendees during the Republican National Committee spring meeting at the Peabody hotel in Memphis, Tenn., on May 9, 2014.
One could very easily create an entire blog devoted exclusively to chronicling the deeply strange things Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says about the economy. Just last week, the Republican senator repeatedly emphasized his concerns about the Federal Reserve -- ostensibly one of his signature issues - with arguments that can charitably be described as gibberish.
Paul soon after followed up that rhetoric with silly conspiracy theories about monetary policy and a bizarre thought experiment about companies creating their own currencies.
But while all of that was alarming nonsense from a likely presidential candidate, it was Rand Paul's take on the 1990s that was kind of hilarious.

Rand Paul, speaking yesterday to a conservative group (his remarks were generously provided by Dave Weigel), explained his view on the proper formula for economic prosperity: tax cuts, and plenty of 'em. "When we dramatically lowered tax rates in the '80s, we got an enormous boom in our country, probably for two decades," explained the 2016 presidential candidate. "Many of us believe that the '80s and the '90s, once the boom began, had a lot to do with lowering the tax rates."

Jon Chait labeled this "pure cookery," which is more than fair, though it's important to understand why.
If this seems vaguely familiar, it's because the Kentucky Republican has struggled with the 1990s before. About a year ago, Rand Paul argued, with a straight face, "When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan."
He apparently forgot all about Clinton, who produced the best job-creation numbers in modern American history. Indeed, for those of us who remember the 1990s, the senator's latest pitch is quite amusing -- Republicans assured Americans that Clinton's economic policies would fail. When they didn't, Republicans want to assure Americans that Reagan deserves the credit.
The problem for Paul is that there are elements of reality that discredit his theory. For example, when Reagan cut taxes, economic conditions deteriorated thanks to high interest rates. When Reagan realized he'd cut taxes too much and reversed course, raising taxes seven of the eight years he was in office, the economy improved.
Similarly, when Clinton raised income tax rates in the early '90s, the right said a recession was sure to follow. Instead, the economy boomed. Under Rand Paul's vision, this was literally impossible -- if "lowering the tax rates" creates massive growth, how did higher tax rates produce robust prosperity?
For that matter, how would Paul explain the recessions in 1982 and 1991? And how would he rationalize the dreadful economy under Bush/Cheney -- after they imposed tax cuts the country couldn't afford?
Look, I realize the junior senator from Kentucky isn't an economic expert. But I'm not asking him to remember the economic policies of the Fillmore administration -- there was a brutal recession in 1853, by the way -- so much as I'm suggesting Rand Paul should at least be able to remember what happened recently.
If he's going to talk about the economic policies of the last 30 years, shouldn't the senator have some basic familiarity with the subject matter?