I just came in from picking up the mail yesterday and caught the Radio America right wing radio host Greg Knapp talking ranting on CNBC about how bad Obama tripled the deficit.

Tripled? Usally the figure I hear cited by the right wing ideologues is quadrupled and they very often cite this chart from an article entitled Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures found on the website belonging to the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation to make their point! The Heritage Foundation is quick to point out that “The Washington Post has a great graphic which helps put President Obama’s budget deficits in context of President Bush’s.”

…in context of President Bush’s.“????

Not really. The graph represents and uneven tilted playing field.

Quoting from reporting done by Lori Montgomery and Ceci Connolly for that same Washington Post:

In addition to the substantive proposals, Obama’s team boasts of improving the budget process itself. For years, budget analysts complained that former president George W. Bush tried to make his deficits look smaller by excluding cost estimates for the war in Iraq and domestic disasters, minimizing the cost of payments to Medicare doctors and assuming that millions more families would pay the costly alternative minimum tax. Obama has banned those techniques, the senior official said.

Take 2005 for instance. If you include just the excluded cost at the time for the Iraq War the REAL deficit figure for fiscal 2005 would be $427 billion* not the $317 billion the CBO used in it’s figures.

So where did this swollen bloated deficit we face really come from? This past week the the NYTimes’ gave us this chart in the David Leonhardt article Sea of Red Ink Was Years in the Making that gives us a far better more accurate look at just where Obama’s record deficit came from:

How Trillion-Dollar Deficits Were Created

Quoting from the mid-section of the Sea of Red Ink Was Years in the Making article:


Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

If the analysis is extended further into the future, well beyond 2012, the Obama agenda accounts for only a slightly higher share of the projected deficits.

How can that be? Some of his proposals, like a plan to put a price on carbon emissions, don’t cost the government any money. Others would be partly offset by proposed tax increases on the affluent and spending cuts. Congressional and White House aides agree that no large new programs, like an expansion of health insurance, are likely to pass unless they are paid for. (JJH- Yes and on the day this article came out Obama proposes making ‘pay-as-you-go’ the law)

Alan Auerbach, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of a widely cited study on the dangers of the current deficits, describes the situation like so: “Bush behaved incredibly irresponsibly for eight years. On the one hand, it might seem unfair for people to blame Obama for not fixing it. On the other hand, he’s not fixing it.”

“And,” he added, “not fixing it is, in a “sense”, making it worse.”

When challenged about the deficit, Mr. Obama and his advisers generally start talking about health care. “There is no way you can put the nation on a sound fiscal course without wringing inefficiencies out of health care,” Peter Orszag, the White House budget director, told me.

Outside economists agree. The Medicare budget really is the linchpin of deficit reduction. But there are two problems with leaving the discussion there.


Looking at the analysis another way courtesy of Matt Yglesias here’s how it looks as a pie chart:

Months ago when I first learned that Obama wasn’t going to be playing around with budget language tricks I made the claim that if you took away the cost of the Iraq War and the Bush Tax Cuts the deficit would be a quarter of what it was and people (my Conservative & Republican friends) scoffed and dismissed what I was saying. It certainly looks now like I wasn’t that far off in my own analysis at the time.

Don’t believe the numbers? Check out the methodology in How We Crunched the Deficit Numbers.

I really don’t expect the Republican, Conservative, and NeoCon right to change their rhetorical denials and really ever own up to responsibility for the deficit, in fact just yesterday Karl Rove flat out refused to accept any responsibility for the deficit and spun his administrations record continuing the deceit (watch it):

ROVE: This guy is going to run up a $1.8 trillion deficit. That’s what it’s projected to be this year,”

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you take some responsibility, meaning you, the Bush eight years, for this…


VAN SUSTEREN: You take absolutely no responsibility? Because…

ROVE: No, lets put it this way, look look we had a deficit that ran 2% of GDP and we were fighting a war [Rove carefully avoids saying that the cost of the Iraq War was not included in the deficit] and trying to grow the economy. He planning a 4% of GDP…

VAN SUSTEREN: So that twice?

ROVE: Twice. He’s going to…his smallest deficit is 200 billion dollars larger than Bush’s largest deficit [the cost of the Iraq war, around 200 billion]. Think about that.

….but I think it’s very important for everyone to know that Obama and the Obama administration are standing up and taking responsibility for hundreds of millions , billions of dollars lost, squandered, misspent, and hidden by the last administration. Remember that the next time you hear someone on the far right rant hysterically about Obama running up the largest deficit in history. It is Obama’s deficit, he’s stood up and claimed it, but it is very certainly a gift he received from the last administration.

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