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.
Last time I checked Obama was President, not Bush. Once you adopt your predecessors policies, they become your policies. Trying to blame the current ongoing profligate spending on some politician who not only is not even President any more but is retired from any political office whatsoever is lame as clearly Bush isn’t President now.
Dave Obama and his administration have adopted or continued some of Bush’s policies and the NY Times article and the chart I think makes that clear but this isn’t about placing all the blame on the Bush administration and is more about defending the Obama administration against the hysterical right wing rants and claims that he/they have “tripled (or quadrupled) the deficit” which is misleading dishonest hyperbole.
more about defending the Obama administration against the hysterical right wing rants and claims that he/they have “tripled (or quadrupled) the deficit” which is misleading dishonest hyperbole.
By your own admission that’s true with your posting the Washington Post graph that the deficit has indeed tripled. If Bush was responsible for his budget deficits when he was President, shouldn’t Obama be held equally accountable? Why not analyze Bush’s deficits and see how much of the deficits are actually his versus what he “inherited”? Of course I think it’s all ridiculous and I’m not saying we should see how much of Bush’s spending he “inherited” from Clinton. Bush is responsible for his deficits from when he was President just as Obama is equally responsible for his deficits while he is President and there shouldn’t be double standards or excuses. Obama willfully decided to spend over and above what he “inherited” when he could have not increased spending just as he could have disinherited himself by not willfully continuing the policies of his predicessor.
Dave with regard to the Washington Post graph showing deficits I think it is incredibly misleading. It a comparison of Apples on the left Bushes side against Apples & Oranges on the right Obama’s side. Back in February Obama and his administration said they weren’t going to play any of the budget accounting tricks that the previous administration employed to make the deficit appear smaller that it really was and they put the costs of the Iraq War (a war of his choosing) and the cost of natural disasters (which he (bush) had no control over) on the books.
Obama and his administration very clearly stood up and took responsibility by making them part of the deficit figure for spending and costs that the Bush administration ran up, hid, and hoped the American public would think were covered. With that move Obama and his administration are taking accountability for the dollars the Bush administration tried to ignore and hid.
As for analyzing Bush’s deficit to see how much of his deficits he “inherited” I am wondering did you not read the Times reporting or look at the chart? When Bush took over he inherited a surplus.
As for Obama choosing to increase spending yes he has but that is part of Keynesian economics. There are three things that drive an economy; spending by business, spending by individual consumers and government spending.
Our economy, the worlds economy, stalled in 2008-2009 and spending from the business and individual sectors all but dried up. It takes a priming and a push to get the economy rolling and started again. The 7 percent of the deficit that comes from the 145 billion dollar stimulus bill in my mind is money well spent. We aren’t going to dig ourselves out of this hole with (Republican) tax cuts and reduced government spending (less stimulus) and hoping things (the market) will just take care of themselves. The economy needs a push and enough fuel in the tank to hold things together and get things started to a point where we (American business and markets) can get to our feet and provide the energy and momentum to carry the load again.
If Obama and his administration had cut government spending we would have even greater unemployment, frozen markets, and still be headed downhill in a depression and people would be screaming for action.
Obama’s "willfull" spending both by extending some Bush era policies (like the war in Iraq and the patch for the altenative minimum tax) and supporting the Wall Street Bailouts and his own stimulus package make up only around a third of the deficit that the extreme talking heads on the right are ranting about.