In one of the most disingenuous claims yet by the Republican born-again deficit virgins, House Minority Leader John Boehner claimed two weeks ago that the Bush tax cuts were not to blame for the massive deficits now plaguing the federal government. On Wednesday, Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse set the record straight. The U.S. would not be hemorrhaging red ink, Whitehouse insisted, "if it hadn't been for the Republican debt orgy." Which is exactly right. After all, the national debt didn't just double during Bush's tenure. As it turns out, the Bush tax cut windfall for the wealthy accounted for almost half the budget deficits during his presidency and the lion's share over the next decade.
Whitehouse's inescapable truth came on the Senate floor in response to the GOP's obstruction of extended unemployment benefits for jobless Americans. As Huffington Post reported:
"I understand the point about the debt and the deficit and the spending," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). "But to me, that doesn't have an enormous amount of credibility, because when President Clinton left office, he left an annual surplus... At the end of [George W. Bush's] term, we had $9 trillion in debt."
"We would have none of this if it hadn't been for the Republican debt orgy that they went through," Whitehouse said.
That's a far cry from Boehner's fuzzy math - and shameless lie - earlier this month.
As The Hill reported, Rep. Boehner in his discussion of the deficit conveniently omitted mention of the Republican mismanagement which helped produce it. Claiming increased spending to fight the Bush recession is "scaring the hell out of the American people," Boehner wrongly declared:
"It's not the marginal tax rates ... that's not what led to the budget deficit. The revenue problem we have today is a result of what happened in the economic collapse some 18 months ago."
"We've seen over the last 30 years that lower marginal tax rates have led to a growing economy, more employment and more people paying taxes."
Leave aside for the moment that President Bush authored the worst eight-year economic record of any modern president or that John Boehner like other Republicans is trying to give the GOP credit for the Clinton boom (which also occurred during a time of higher tax rates. John Boehner's myth-making notwithstanding, it was precisely the Bush tax cuts which devastated the Treasury.
In 2001, as you may recall, George W. Bush inherited a federal budget in the black and CBO forecast for a $5.6 trillion surplus over 10 years. As The Hill noted Thursday:
In January 2001, before the Bush tax cuts were enacted, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected annual budget surpluses of approximately $800 billion between 2009 and 2012. The CBO now projects a $1.2 trillion annual deficit for those years and has also stated that the Bush tax cuts contributed to the budget deficit.
President George W. Bush quickly set about dismantling the progress made under Clinton. Bush's $1.4 trillion tax cut in 2001, followed by a second $550 billion round in 2003. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) detailed, those Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure.
Like Reagan and Stockman before him, Bush resorted to the rosy scenario to claim he would halve the budget deficit by 2009. Before the financial system meltdown last fall, Bush's deficit already reached $490 billion. (And even before the passage of the Wall Street bailout, Bush had presided overa $4 trillion increase in the national debt, a staggering 71% jump.) By January 2009, the mind-numbing deficit figure topped $1.2 trillion, forcing President Bush to raise the debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion. President Obama was exactly right when he chastised Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling during the House Republicans' disastrous meeting in January:
"Now, look, let's talk about the budget once again, because I'll go through it with you line by line. The fact of the matter is, is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. -- $1.3 [trillion.] So when you say that suddenly I've got a monthly budget that is higher than the -- a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by the Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true."
And as another recent CBPP analysis revealed, over the next 10 years, the Bush tax cuts will contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession - combined.
An AP chart of data from the Congress Budget Office showed the explosion of federal debt that will ensue if the Tea Baggers and their Republican allies get their way in making the Bush tax cuts permanent.
As David Leonhardt documented in the New York Times in last June, "President Obama's agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying."
In a jaw-dropping chart illustrating how today's trillion-dollar deficits were created, the Times concluded that even before the Bush recession commenced in December 2007, Dubya's dangerously irresponsible tax cuts and unfunded spending produced an ocean of red ink that dwarfed the impact of President Obama's stimulus and other spending programs:
"The economic growth under George W. Bush did not generate nearly enough tax revenue to pay for his agenda, which included tax cuts, the Iraq war, and Medicare prescription drug coverage."
And like most of the other Republican born-again deficit virgins, John Boehner voted for all of it. Of course, that didn't stop him from grandstanding in November that "Washington Democrats' so-called 'war on deficits' is about a year late and more than a trillion dollars short." And just 10 days ago, Boehner asked fellow Meet the Press guess Steny Hoyer (D-MD), "How long are you going to blame the Bush administration? Come on. When is someone in Washington going to take responsibility for what they are in charge of?"
Of course, when it comes to the Republican debt orgy, John Boehner refuses to follow his advice.