As it is with children, so it is with conservatives and deficits. People who are very good at making them aren’t necessarily all that skilled in dealing with them.
But that doesn’t stop them from trying, and it doesn’t stop people — even those who should know better — from listening to their advice. Even the president is not immune. Whether you think the president’s proposed three-year freeze non-military discretional spending is a good idea, a bad idea, or essentially meaningless — a hatchet or a scalpel — it signals that a certain degree of the rhetoric of the deficit hysterics has been effective, both in pinning the blame for the deficit on the current president, and diverting discussion from long-term deficit solutions.
Despite what conservatives would have you believe, the current economic downturn began before Barack Obama was elected president, just as the deregulation that led to the downturn and the deficit — which is actually a symptom of the downturn, and not its cause — were well underway by July 27, 2004, 11:09 PM, when a relatively unknown legislator from Illinois introduced himself to the world.
Even a cursory glance at the facts makes it clear, the deficit that has conservatives so alarmed was created on their watch.
Uh-Oh! Conservatives turned a budget surplus we had then into the deficit we have now. It’s true. Even the Wall Street Journal had to acknowledge that the perhaps the biggest legacy of the Bush years is the huge deficit.
In other words, the deficit didn’t just happen, and it didn’t have to happen. It was the predicted outcome of conservative policy decisions.
- Bush and congressional conservatives came into office with a $236 billion surplus projected to last years into the future. They turned it into a $412 billion deficit, in just four years.
- Bush used the existing surplus (and the $5.6 trillion surplus projected over the next ten years) as justification for huge tax cuts for the wealthy.
- Even as the costs of the was in Iraq and Afghanistan spiraled skyward, Bush refused to pay the costs of waging two wars with tax increases or other budgetary offsets.
- As a result, the government ran a deficit, and paid for some of its biggest expenditures with borrowed money.
- Ever “reality-based,” in 2007 the Bush administration predicted a $61 billion surplus by 2012, but presented a 2008 budget that added $251 billion to the deficit.
But a cursory glance clearly won’t do, with deficit fever rising to the the level of of a “National Security Threat,” (according to the Wall Street Journal).
Conservatives seem to take a “Do as we say, not as we do” approach to deficits. With so much riding on how we respond to this crisis, and how much we invest in long-term economic security and stability for all of us, it’s worth taking a deeper look at what conservatives has done to create the deficit that is now, suddenly, their biggest concern.
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