Alternate Reality

Jay Bookman at the AJC really nails the Republican whining over the stimulus package:

Republicans in Congress and on the TV and radio talk shows claim to oppose the economic stimulus out of concern about the national debt and a moral conviction that we should not saddle future generations of Americans with such a burden.

But who do they think they’re fooling? Apparently they believe the world began anew at noon on Jan. 20, and that everything that occurred prior to that date had somehow been wiped clean from the national memory banks.

Well, it hasn’t.

We do face a long-term problem. Our gross federal debt is at $10.6 trillion, with a good portion owed to lenders in China, Japan and the Middle East. But how did that number get so huge?

The answer is that it grew tremendously, both as a gross number and a percentage of GDP, during the administrations of Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.  George W. was particularly hard on future generations:

The debt almost doubled under Bush, from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion. As a percentage of GDP, it grew from 57.4 percent to 68 percent, the highest since the aftermath of World War II.

As Bookman points out, many of the same Republicans who are whining now went along with everything W asked:

And of course, the same congressional Republicans now preaching the dangers of deficit spending were right at Bush’s side, writing and passing the budgets that drove us deeply into the red.

Unfortunately, the Republicans are fooling some people with their rhetoric.  And Obama keeps reaching out to them, as if they’ll ever come around and support his proposals.  I fear we’ll end up with Republicans wringing a bunch of concessions and still refusing to vote for a bill so gutted that it doesn’t work — and then taking credit for their amazing “foresight” if it fails.  And a good portion of the media will buy it.  Again.


4 Responses to “Alternate Reality”

  1. Del says:

    I have the same fears, Kathy. But! I saved a copy of an email I sent a friend this morning on this very topic, just in case you had a post about it :)

    I liked this post of Andrew Sullivan’s. It’s about whether Obama needs to take the gloves off. Two quotes that stand out for me:

    The reason the Republicans are feeling better about themselves is that they managed to turn this debate into one about ideology in a vacuum. That’s how they governed for many years; it’s what they know; and since they have no shame, they feel no need to square their newfound fiscal conservatism in a depression with their record of massive spending and borrowing in a boom.

    This is exactly what my husband was saying this morning. Actually what he said was that the Republicans were trying to turn everything Obama says into “Midnight basketball! Midnight basketball!” all over again. And:

    From a long-term strategic perspective, even the critics are already entrenching the central meme that Obama has tried to bring as many people on board as possible. They are doing his work for him.

    None other than Deroy freakin’ Murdock had a column in Sunday’s paper that actually seems to be praising Obama and his bipartisanship, saying that if only he could get rid of Pelosi and Reid, he’d be a hell of a swell guy.

    President Obama has the gravitas and goodwill to provide the adult supervision that this bill and future legislation require. While the results rarely will thrill free-marketeers, we lost the last election and must play a weak hand. Our best bet is to encourage Obama to buckle up Pelosi and Reid and adopt as many of our ideas as bipartisanship permits. With Obama driving and Nancy and Harry riding along, a smoother journey should lead us to a better destination.

    Maybe Obama knows what he’s doing after all. He came up in Chicago, I keep telling myself.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Interesting article Kathy. Since my knowledge of the deficit and GDP was (and still is to some extent) lacking, I took the morning to research the terms, the history and multiple viewpoints of the GDP and National Deficit, and how some believe we arrived at our current situation.

    During my research, I have concluded that it appears Bookman is right about his numbers. However, there are a few details that are missing, that I think are key to possessing a more accurate understanding of what he’s trying to portray.

    People like to forget that the President doesn’t approve or pass the budget. He simply proposes it. Congress has the final say in approving a President’s budget. That’s the beauty of our form of government and the checks and balances we have in place. It might be interesting to know that during Reagan and George H. Bush’s reign, the Congress was controlled by the Democrats the entire time. The House held a Democratic majority the entire period and the Senate held a Democratic majority for 3 out of the 6 congressional terms. What does this mean? The criticized deficit increasing budgets that were proposed by Reagan and Bush were approved by Democratic Congresses. I guess Bookman forgot that little detail.

    Clinton on paper appears to have had one of the best records of reducing spending as during his Presidency the deficit only increased by $1.539 Trillion and he increased the GDP. However, who controlled Congress at the time? Republicans controlled both houses during his tenure. Fortunately at the time, we were dealing with fiscally conservative Republicans in Congress, a now extinct being. Clinton knew this and knew he couldn’t get a bloated budget passed, thus the reduced budget.

    Then we come to George W. Bush. Where to begin. I was initially a supporter of GWB. I felt he was more in line with my principles and beliefs on most of the issues. His first term was deemed, in my eyes, a marginal success. I also voted for him again in 2004 as I still didn’t like the alternative. It sickens me to say that now; however, I can still sleep at night as I feel he was as the old saying goes, the lesser of two evils. Now, I could make a list a mile long of all the things he and other Republicans have legislated that I vehemently disagree with. As his average approval rating dropped over the months, so did mine of him. He and Congress both let us down in so many ways.

    Bush did increase the deficit by $4.88 Trillion during his Presidency. That’s a fact. Yes the Republicans of late have been about nothing but larger government and more spending, which I do not support. But to state that “GOP spendthrifts put us in this budget mess” is absurd. This mess and the financial meltdown were not caused by any single person or Congressional session. The CRA from Clinton’s era, greedy banks taking advantage of government legislation, forced lending to people who had no business owning a house, and an American public that has sunk so far into consumption, consumerism and a play-now-pay-later mentality have caused this. Not just the GOP or Democrats. Not just Bush or Clinton.

    So in regards to the Republican whining and how Republicans think this mess should be fixed? Definitely not by spending more government money that we don’t have. All this will do is create a market ripe for hyper inflation and create an even larger, more restrictive federal government. Plus the main hang up for me, I refuse to support something so pork laden and full of wasteful spending. You can’t tell me there’s not some insane amount of handouts going to various groups and organizations that have no business getting funded through this type of legislation. Where’s the oversight? We see how well TARP-1 is working out. Just because Bush (and every other President) increased the deficit, doesn’t make it right.

    Anyway, like I said Kathy, great article and I’m glad you posted it.

  3. Kathy says:

    Thanks, Jonathan. This is a complicated mess, and you’re right that it’s simplistic to blame it all on one party. I just find it hard to take seriously the sudden concern on the part of some Republicans in Congress for fiscal responsibility. I guess “tax and spend” rolls off the tongue a bit more smoothly than “borrow and spend” when it comes to pejorative phrases, but I believe the latter is a much bigger threat to our long-term survival as a country. Reagan and W, and to an extent George Bush I, bowed down at the altar of tax cuts while still proposing big budgets. “Pay as you go” was equivalent to profanity to them. W’s off-the-books financing of the Iraq War was close to criminal AFAIC.

    It’s particularly funny to listen to Richard Shelby, one of the kings of pork, griping about this evil spending bill. The man has his name on how many buildings now?

  4. Rick says:

    I never quit being amused by the Republican claim to Clinton’s economic sucess. Not a single one voted for his first budget. Please someone remind me which conservative said that grass was gonig to grow on the streets if Clinton’s budget passes.
    A co-worker at the time pointed out that there were 47 listings in the classifieds for our trade. When I looked yesterday, not one.
    The Clinton stock market started at 3200 and finished over around 11000. The market Bush started at 11000 and finished at 8000.
    Read their prescription after the Bush recession/depression – stay the course.

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