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Ten Times the — Bushwah! April 30, 2010

Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.
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Possibly the one allegation that infuriates me the most is the Tea Party’s insistence that under Obama, the U.S. government is spending “at ten times the speed”  it did under George W. Bush, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The data below were obtained from Wikipedia’s articles “National debt by U.S. presidential term” and “United States public debt.” All numbers are in 2009 dollars. The inflation adjuster I used is the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator.

Pres. Year $ Tr. Size of National Debt
Ford 1977 1.973 $$$$
Carter 1981 1.963 $$$
Reagan 1989 4.127 $$$$$$$$
Bush/41 1993 5.478 $$$$$$$$$$$
Clinton 2001 6.193 $$$$$$$$$$$$
Bush/43 2009 12.311 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Now, notice:

  • Carter, a Democrat, modestly reduced the national debt.
  • Over two terms, Reagan, a Republican, more than doubled the national debt. (Although conservatives today speak of Reagan as if he were a saint, I remember his term vividly and loathe “the old cowboy” to this day. Like Dubya, Reagan only cared genuinely about millionaires.)
  • Over one term, Bush/41 continued “Reaganomics”; despite violating his “read my lips” promise and raising taxes (slightly, unwillingly, and primarily on the non-wealthy), Bush/41 increased the national debt by another 25 percent. In other words, over 12 years, Reagan and Bush/41 came close to tripling the national debt handed to them by Carter.
  • Over two terms, Clinton, a Democrat, held the national debt down as best he could. Clinton handed his successor a balanced budget and an annual surplus.
  • Bush/43 erased Clinton’s budget surplus in less than a year. Over two terms, Bush/43 more than doubled the national debt, single-handedly.

Let’s recap: Over the last 30 years, two Democratic presidents reduced the national debt and created an annual budget surplus. Over those same 30 years, three Republican presidents added $10.348 TRillion to the national debt (in constant, 2009 dollars), and Dubya handed Obama a national debt more than six times the size of the national debt that Carter handed to Reagan.

It will take decades to undo the damage to the American system done by George W. Bush, who spent money like a drunken frat boy, vastly increasing the size of the federal government and looting the U.S. Treasury to lavish tax-rate gifts on wealthy “have-mores” while waging two wars and paying for neither. And now Republicans are blaming the Great Recession and the dire economy on Democrats, as if the GOP has been pure as the driven snow over the last 30 years.

It is commonly accepted that this insane GOP spending was deliberate. The idea, most vividly expressed by Grover Norquist with his “drown the government in a bathtub” comment, was to create such a gigantic burden of debt that the succeeding Democratic administration would be compelled to cut or even eliminate popular social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and welfare. Republicans would have the fun of spending the money, while Democrats would be hated by the populace for having to impose harsh economies while they cleaned up the mess. From the point of view of the Greedy Oil Plutocrats, this is win-win; from the point of view of you and me, it is most assuredly lose-lose.

Republicans did manage to largely eviscerate welfare under Clinton, but even today it still exists — so that even today, Republicans can exacerbate the suffering they are responsible for by denying benefits (as Jim Bunning, R-Ky., did) to punish Democrats who are trying to clean up the GOP’s mess. The other popular social programs remain intact, although the Greedy Oil Plutocrats keep up their drumbeat of lies about how soon these programs will drive the United States into bankruptcy.

If the Obama administration were indeed spending at “ten times the speed” that Dubya did, it would be adding $15.4 TRillion to the national debt each year. The teabagger’s lie to me a few days ago is ludicrous. What pains me the most is that even if the teabagger read this article, he still would believe that Democrats, and especially Obama, are the root of all evil.

Yes, our economy is in a huge mess. It is a mess deliberately caused by Republicans, in service to their radically far-right ideology. For them to portray Democrats as the villains responsible for the mess is not merely disingenuous; it is deeply dishonest. It is a lie as bold as “Saddam was behind 9/11” or “I am compassionate.”