interpreting the deficit.

One of the right’s cardinal talking points right now is about how Obama is bankrupting our children by piling on to an already skyhigh deficit. But what they don’t seem to realize is that Obama’s new policies account for something like 10% of all spending this year – 7% from the stimulus package and 3% from everything else –  according to an analysis of official CBO numbers by NYT reporter David Leonhardt. The rest of it is due to less tax revenue and more safety-net spending due to the recession (~37%), new welfare programs enacted by George W. Bush and his Republican majority Congress  (~33%), and Obama’s continuation of policies Bush started, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for low- and middle-income households (~20%).

Now, if they’d like, conservatives could argue that this is no time for yet more spending. But if they do so, they need to acknowledge just how complicit they were in contributing to said deficit, as over 50% of it could be attributed to their policies. Far more often the ‘historic deficit’ blame lies squarely on Obama’s shoulders. Never mind the fact that *NOT* running higher deficits during a severe depression like this is financial suicide (see: Hoover, and FDRs premature cutback of the New Deal). A few people on the right have even blamed the bailouts started under Bush on Obama (though one of them caught themselves after a minute).

But hey, when it comes to numbers there’s never been sanity in Washington from anybody, so why should we expect it to start now? Apparently, Obama has no credible plan for reducing the deficit in the long-run (so sas the article). I have no doubt that this is true – fudging numbers has been far more popular in recent years than credible dialog and accountability. I’m still waiting for the Ron Paul revolution to take over the right…

UPDATE: Yglesias has some nice comments on his blog about how the deficit is not some intrinsically moral issue, and a wonderful little pie-chart that visualizes this year”s spending.


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