|Steak Dinners and Slurpees: Numbers Refute Obama’s Attempt to Blame Deficits on Tax Cuts and Wars|
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, June 14 2012
In his most petulant and desperate demeanor yet, Barack Obama this week doubled down on blaming his own fiscal failures on George W. Bush.
Speaking at a fundraiser – what else? – in Baltimore, Obama also unveiled a new pet metaphor, substituting “steak dinner” for his familiar “slurpee” and “car in the ditch” analogies:
“I inherited a trillion-dollar deficit! (Laughter)… So this notion that somehow we caused the deficits is just wrong. (Laughter) It’s just not true. And anybody who looks at the math will tell you it’s not true. And if they start trying to give you a bunch of facts and figures suggesting that it’s true, what they’re not telling you is that they baked all this stuff into the cake with those tax cuts and a prescription drug plan that they didn’t pay for, and the war.… It’s like somebody goes to a restaurant, orders a big steak dinner, martini, all that stuff, and then just as you’re sitting down, they leave. (Laughter) And accuse you of running up the tab. (Applause) That’s what they do. I am not making this up. (Laughter) I mean, press, go back, check, take a look at the numbers.”
Yes, let’s “take a look at the numbers.”
But first, which is it? Obama simultaneously proclaims himself the most miserly President in 60 years, but then alleges that he prevented “the next Great Depression” through his massive spending “stimulus.” Additionally, if Obama’s failures are somehow Bush’s fault, why weren’t Bush’s failures Bill Clinton’s fault? After all, Bush also “inherited” a recession as well as the destructive 9/11 plot from Clinton.
Regardless of Obama’s bipolar confusion, the numbers he asks us to examine refute rather than support his claims.
The first number to keep in mind is $161 billion. That was the deficit for fiscal 2007, the last year that Republicans – or “they” to Obama – controlled Congress and the White House. After Democrats, including Obama himself as Senator from Illinois, recaptured both houses of Congress, the deficit immediately jumped to $454 billion for 2008. Since then, each of Obama’s deficits has exceeded $1 trillion, almost ten times larger than the deficit that “they” – the Republicans – last ran.
The second number to keep in mind is $2.57 trillion. That was the amount of incoming federal revenues for 2007 according to the Congressional Budget Office. That number remains an all-time record high.
The third and fourth numbers are 2001 and 2003. Those were the years in which tax rates were reduced under Obama’s predecessor. Those were also the years in which the Afghan and Iraqi wars began, respectively.
The fifth number to keep in mind is 2008. That was the year in which spending for the Afghan and Iraqi wars peaked.
So let’s do the math, since Obama apparently either can’t or won’t.
The tax cuts and wars Obama scapegoats occurred in 2001 and 2003. By 2007, several years afterward, the nation’s budget deficit nearly disappeared and incoming federal receipts reached their record peak. In 2008, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan peaked before Obama entered office. Yet today, Obama’s four consecutive deficits in excess of $1 trillion dwarf the deficits he “inherited.”
Accordingly, anyone attempting to blame today’s deficits on either the tax cuts or the Afghan and Iraqi wars is either speaking dishonestly or ignorantly. The same is true of any attempt to claim that Obama’s deficits were somehow “baked in” or “structural.”
To the contrary, the cause of today’s deficits is increased spending under Obama. In 2007, federal spending totaled $2.73 trillion, which nobody claimed insufficient. Today, 2012 federal spending is projected to reach $3.8 trillion. That $1.1 trillion spending increase since 2007 obviously hasn’t produced the robust economic recovery that Obama promised, but has instead heaped record amounts onto an already-unsustainable national debt.
And here’s another inconvenient non-numerical fact for Obama: He voluntarily extended those same Bush tax cuts he now scapegoats in 2010. He therefore cannot claim that current tax rates are the source of our fiscal ills while also claiming that his deficits are somehow “structural.” He could have refused to extend them if he believed his own words.
As November approaches and Obama’s desperation increases, expect to hear him scapegoat in even angrier and angrier terms. But also know that the numbers he tells us to examine refute his claims.
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