Inflation-adjusted median household incomes fell by 2.6% during the Great Recession. Obamanomics, which has been characterized by adding $5 trillion to our deficits in the name of stimulating our paychecks, has had the exact opposite effect. Since the recession ended in mid 2009, instead of helping us, it hurt us. Inflation-adjusted median household incomes fell another 4.8%. More…
It happened again this morning. A letter writer to the Des Moines Register blamed our deficits on the Bush tax cuts and the two wars launched in response to 9/11.In other words, the deficits are Bush’s fault and Obama is simply cleaning up his mess is the contention. Is this true? No, not according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) … More…
By Tom Quiner
Voices on the left are clear: our fiscal problems are the result of an unnecessary war on Iraq forced on the country by former President Bush.
Democratic Party strategist, James Carville, is blunt:
“It was under Mr Bush that the deficit spiralled out of control as we fought an unnecessary and endless $3,000bn war in Iraq…”
Writing in the Washington Post, Linda Bilmes (a member of Harvard’s faculty) and economist Joseph Stiglitz were even blunter:
“The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can’t spend $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.”
Writing in The Nation, Christopher Hayes is bluntest:
“First, the facts. Nearly the entire deficit for this year and those projected into the near and medium terms are the result of three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession. The solution to our fiscal situation is: end the wars…”
The Iraq War certainly makes voices from the political Left emotional. Fortunately, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has weighed in with a detailed financial analysis of he war’s cost. It turns out the folks above were just plain misinformed.
It is certainly fair to argue if the fruits of our efforts were worth the tremendous cost to our nation.
Reasonable voices can debate if the removal of a mass-murdering dictator and the establishment of a democratically-elected government were worth it.
Reasonable voices can argue if the piece of mind knowing that the country truly is free of weapons of mass destruction are worth it.
The jury is still out on Iraq, and a healthy debate should continue on whether the price was worth it.
However, when it comes to deficits, the debate is over. The CBO spells it out. The war accounted for just 3.2% of federal government spending while it lasted.
Look at defense spending under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in the 60s when it accounted for 46% of all federal spending. Contrast that with Bush II when defense spending was less than 20% of federal outlays.
The chart above really lays it on the line. The last year Republicans were in charge of the budget was 2007. Deficits exploded after Democrats took over. The biggest culprit is Obama’s stimulus package which will cost far more than the Iraq War ever did.
And for the record, we went to war with Iraq on the basis of bipartisan Congressional Iraq War Resolution (H.J. Res 114). In the House, 82 Democrats voted to go to war; in the Senate, 29 Democrats voted to go to war.
The next time you hear an angry voice blaming our deficits on the Iraq War, tell them to talk to the non-partisan CBO.
“I am confident we can get government off our backs and out of our pockets …” Ronald Reagan, November 3, 1980
“Read my lips, no new taxes.” George H. W. Bush, August 18, 1988
“The era of big government is over.” William Jefferson Clinton, January 27, 1996
“We must balance the federal budget.” George W. Bush, January 23, 2007
“That’s why today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.” Barack Obama, February 23, 2009
Three Republican Presidents and two Democrats have been united in their rhetoric: we must be concerned about excessive deficits, taxation, and government spending. Each pledged to do something about it in their own way.
Collectively they have failed us. Spending is out of control.
Joe Sixpack is struggling to pay his mortgage, to put some food on the table, and to try to put a few bucks away to help his kids go to college. A hundred bucks is a lot of money in these economic times. So talk of government debt in the trillions of dollars is enough to make our beer go flat.
I have developed a simple way to relate to the way the national government spends our money. I call it Federal Spending for Dummies. I simply take the total dollars the federal government spends (official White House numbers) and divide it by the population (according to the U.S. Census Bureau). I compare the amount the government spends per person by decade and adjust for inflation.
I did something similar two weeks ago looking at state spending. Here are the raw, unadjusted numbers:
In 1980, the Federal Government spent an average of $2498 per citizen.
In 1990, the Federal Government spent an average of $4943 per citizen.
In 2000, the Federal Government spent an average of $6138 per citizen.
In 2010, the Federal Government will spend an average of $11,640 per citizen (estimated).
If we adjust for inflation using 1980 dollars, Federal spending has climbed from $2498 per person in 1980 to $4470 today. In the last decade alone, spending has climbed $1533 per citizen in inflation-adjusted 1980 dollars.
Democrats and Republicans have collaborated in this dramatic expansion of government spending. In fact, the most frugal period was the decade of gridlock when President Clinton, a Democrat, and Speaker Gingrich, a Republican, helped keep the other party’s spending habits in check.
And yet, even with the modest restraint of the 90’s, federal spending has increased more than twice the rate of inflation since 1992.
We have a spending problem, not a tax problem.
The national debt is near $12 trillion, about 61 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). By contrast, China’s national debt is only 16.2 percent of their GDP.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the auditor for the federal government lays it on the line to us: the U.S. is on a fiscally “unsustainable path.
Has spending skyrocketed because of the war on terror? No. As a percentage of GDP we spend less today on defense than we did during the Reagan years.
On the other hand, pork barrel spending is out of control. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, earmarks have increased from 13, 443 from 1991 through 1999 to over 20,000 in the past two years alone.
The risks of excessive government spending deficits are significant. Either taxes have to be raised so dramatically, that the economy is crippled and jobs destroyed. Or else government spending has to be yanked back abruptly with whiplash repercussions to the country. Or else we have to inflate our way out of the mess, which creates an even worse problem.
As I write this piece, a Republican was just elected to the Senate from the liberal state of Massachusetts. Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat is now in the hands of a Republican.
Is this a ringing endorsement for the Republican Party?
I think not. Rather, it is a ringing endorsement for restraint. It is an indictment of proposed health care legislation. It is a reflection of the electorate’s desire for moderation in government spending.
It’s not too late to change our course. But we need to start now.