PART I: THE REALITY
From CBS News in March 2012, as part of an article where Mark Knoller breathlessly tells us how fast President Obama is adding more to the deficit than his predecessors, we get this graph showing where the deficit currently stands:
But the total deficit and how fast it is rising under President Obama is only part of the discussion. From Ezra Klein, in January 2012, we get the following two graphs showing the how both President George W. Bush and President Obama affect the deficit numbers:
Looking at the two graphs, one can see that Bush added $5.1 trillion over 8 years and President Obama is only projected to add $983 billion over an 8 year period.
Even the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that President Obama has actually lowered the growth of the spending rate:
After adjusting for inflation, spending under Obama is falling at a 1.4% annual pace — the first decline in real spending since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was retreating from the quagmire in Vietnam.In case you're wondering, The Wall Street Journal piece also had this graph showing the rate of spending growth back to President Reagan:
This might leave you scratching your head about the increase of the deficit. Where is the increase coming from? As can be seen in this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the largest part of the increase comes from revenue losses caused by the Bush tax cuts and the economic downturn:
PART II: THE RHETORIC
If you watched the Republican convention you might have seen the debt clock prop they introduced as a major theme. (link) Or if you read the recent piece by Matt Taibbi, you might have learned that Mitt Romney is, rather hypocritically, emphasizing the debt as a way criticizing President Obama. Here is a Romney quote:
"A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation," he declared. "Every day we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love."Under President George W. Bush, Republicans in congress voted for tax cuts, two wars and a huge Medicare Prescription drug benefit, all unfunded. Under this Democratic President, Republicans have suddenly found Jesus when it comes to deficit spending. You can go here and click on the button that says "Burden of Debt' to hear Paul Ryan, who was one of the Republicans who voted for the tax cuts and the wars and the prescription drug benefit, opine on the subject. Or you can watch Ryan rail against the borrow and spend approach here:
There are those who believe this is all political posturing:
First, conservatives believe that deficits make a good campaign issue. They need something to rile up people – something to fan their anger and resentment against government – and deficits fit the bill. Unfortunately, it seems to be working. Polls find increasing numbers of Americans are mentioning deficits and the national debt as one the most important problems facing our nation.
However, the main reason the Republicans have seized on this issue is that it is a good way to reduce government or at the very least prevent its expansion. Efforts to rein in the budget have long been a part of their “starving the beast” strategy that was described in another article.
Few are better than Senator Bernie Sanders at exposing the hypocrisy behind the sudden interest in the deficit:
PART III: REAL WORLD SOLUTIONS
Let's start by playing a little game of "Guess the speaker." Who is the person quoted below making the case for deficit spending that will lead to later revenue surpluses?
We’ve got to get the engine of economic growth growing again because we now know, because of recession, we don’t have the revenues that we wanted to, we don’t have the revenues we need, to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security, to fix these issues. We’ve got to get Americans back to work. Then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we’re trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis.
Joe Biden? No. Barack Obama? No. Harry Reid? No. Nancy Pelosi? No. Chuck Schumer? No. Some Blue Dog Democrat maybe, sneaking in the word bipartisan to make the bipartisan fetishists in the DC cocktail circuit happy? No. Give up? OK, it's Paul Ryan. Yes that Paul Ryan.
The 2002 Ryan makes a lot more sense than the current pseudo-deficit hawk version. Besides not balancing the budget until 2050, Ryan's budget would shift lots of costs to states and localities, making the cuts to state and local services. Here is a graph from CBPP (click on the provided link for more explanation of how this would impact state and local services) showing how much worse than sequestration the Ryan Budget would be :
The real world solution to this is to ignore the lies of the lead Republicans when it comes to dealing with the deficit and elect a Democratic Congress that will not lead us over a cliff when it comes to Budget negotiations. We face three scenarios. According to the CBO, we can have the fiscal cliff Republican version:
[T]he US could slump into another recession in 2013 if the very things that Republicans are causing take place - the Bush tax cuts expire and the federal government is forced to slash spending.There is a second version that involves getting Republicans to cooperate. There is little or no chance of that happening. Or we can have the better non-fiscal cliff version that involves having a Democratic Congress:
Actually, there is a third scenario that CBO has not calculated: if Obama is reelected and Democrats retake the House and remain in control of the Senate, we will see a commonsense approach to tax policy - restoring the historically low tax rates on income up to $250,000, a move to tax reform that eliminates tax incentives for companies that off-shore and out-source jobs and income, investment in infrastructure, clean energy and energy independence, investments in education and health care; sensible reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, greater efficiency in government spending. We will see rehiring of teachers and other vital public workers, a resurgence in the housing market and a drop in unemployment rate to around 6%.If you really want to fix the deficit, elect a Democratic Congress!!!
2:17 PM PT: Thanks for the rescue!