Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Truth About the President and the Deficit

Arguably the biggest lie coming from the Republicans and the Romney campaign is that President Obama is a tax and spend liberal who's directly and personally responsible for record deficits and a crushing national debt.

Not only is Mitt Romney telling his supporters that President Obama continues to spend out of control, but additionally that the president is responsible for doubling the budget deficit since he took office. This is not a new attack. Republicans who blindly greenlit trillions in Bush-era spending have been engaged in this nonsense practically since the minute the president was inaugurated.

I like to do this from time to time, so consider this a one-stop source for debunking what the Republicans are claiming about the Obama administration's fiscal record. Before I do, however, I'd like to note that Republicans often confuse the national debt with the federal budget deficit, not unlike the way they scramble the stimulus and the bailouts. (The "stimulus," passed by President Obama, is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the "bailout," passed by President Bush, is also known as TARP.) They're not interchangeable terms.

For example, Karl Rove's new and highly deceptive anti-Obama commercial somehow conflates the national debt and unemployment, calling it "job-killing debt," even though job-creation and the national debt are about as interdependent as Rove and The Truth. We can assume that Rove simply doesn't know what the debt actually is, or that he's deliberately lying to voters.

To be clear: the federal budget deficit is the annual difference between what the government spends and what it collects in revenue. It's often similar, higher or lower, than the previous fiscal year's deficit. The debt is the total amount of money the United States owes to creditors, and this much larger figure accrues from year to year. A lot of people don't know the difference, and I've even heard very serious cable news people mix them up, too.

So let's start from the beginning -- prior to 2009 when the president was inaugurated. While it's true that, in a general sense, the deficit and debt are higher than ever before, it has less to do with President Obama, and more to do with the previous administration's careless spending, ridiculously large tax cuts for the super-rich coupled with the globally massive economic depression from which we're still extricating ourselves.

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