Per Stormin Mormon:
Debt as a percent of GDP.
Carter: 3.3%, Dem house & Dem senate.
Clinton: 10.6%, Republican house & Republican senate.
I have to agree with the observation that the prez doesn't do it,
but congress does - but would think that the prez has the ability
to set direction.
Note that Bush II managed to increase the debt by almost 30% with
a largely Republican congress. That's definitely setting a
I would also recall that, after O'Neil got sacked in (2002?) for
opining that a half-trillion dollar deficit might not be in the
best interests of the country, vice-president Cheyney stated
"Reagan proved deficits don't matter." (http://tinyurl.com/96mdl )
Cheyney's statement and Bush II's presidency pretty much tore
away the Republican's claimed mantle of fiscal responsibility for
me. Where were all these guys who, today, are posturing and
profiling about the deficit when Bush II and a Republican
congress were running it up?
The ultimate direction, of course, is set by the voters. If the
population is so uneducated as to, for instance, cheer when a
presidential hopeful promises two-dollar-per-gallon gas if she is
elected, that says something.
Frankly, I think Cheyney was factually correct. Deficits don't
matter - *to the voters*. This isn't Germany - where a woman
physicist who isn't all that great looking can get elected head
of state and there's a national memory of the hyperinflation of
1918 - and the German kids I've known are better educated after
8th grade than the kids here are when they graduate from high
On the contrary, this is a place where the average credit card
holder maintains a balance on their account. This is a place
where a close family member of mine just spent six weeks
interviewing college-degreed job applicants before he found
somebody who understood compound interest.
I'm no fan of either party. Both are pandering to the fantasy
that we can get out of this mess without experiencing some
significant pain in the form of reduced spending on entitlements
and higher taxes.
Every source that I've heard - which didn't have an obvious
political agenda - has said that we need to raise taxes and cut
entitlements - and that one or the other cannot raise enough
money to do the job.
David Brook's recently-expressed opinion that we're hard on the
tail of Greece rings true to me. David Brooks strikes me as
being a very smart/knowledgeable person and strongly
conservative. If he doesn't have hope, I have to take that
If the Republicans prevail, we will follow Greece down the toilet
with lower taxes and, probably, reduced spending. If the Dems
prevail, we will head to the same end with higher taxes and the
same or higher spending.
They were "in power" at the time. The party in power does what it pleases.
I was watching Brooks give an interview and I would elect him President in a
heartbeat. He seems to have an uncanny grasp on what's wrong: "Americans
want services from their government they're not willing to pay for."
Whether it's money for wars or welfare, we expect too much out of too little
revenue. He gives me hope that the Republican party can return to some
semblance of sanity and leadership because he cuts through partisan BS with
sharp knife (and wit).
I especially liked his comments about Newt. He asked if we want the man who
couldn't run the House worth a damn to now run the entire country. He
expressed serious disaffection with Obama's lack of leadership but tempered
that with the acknowledgment that people who tell the truth to the American
electorate don't stand much chance of getting elected or re-elected.
We've "had it all" for many years after WWII and we want that to continue,
despite the massive changes that have taken place in the world and the fact
that we were basically the only game in town after the war - European and
Asian manufacturing dropped to the lowest levels ever because their
factories were destroyed, leaving us with a gigantic playing field that's
been shrinking ever since.
Nice choice, isn't it? The Devil or the Deep Blue Sea.
It could also be that the Chinese demand better wages, the job losses
reverse and revenues rise enough to cover the deficit because business is
"good" once again. What burns me is the number of people who insist the
deficit is all Obama's doing, even for things that were appropriated long
before anyone knew his name like continuing benefits for all the soldiers of
WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, GW1, Somalia, etc.
President Bush inherited a budget surplus (the first in decades). Then, hit
with a recession, he was forced into deficit, just like Obama. Then he cut
taxes, growing the deficit to $00 billion a year. Then, the economy boomed
between 2005 and 2008, reducing the deficit to $00 billion a year. Then,
the financial crisis hit, and the Bush deficit ballooned to $00 billion
When Obama took over in 2009 during the worst recession since the Great
Depression he signed an $00 billion spending increase at the same time that
GDP and tax collections tanked. The combination of these two factors--growth
in spending and a drop in revenue--exploded the deficit to $.4 trillion. In
2010, the economy and tax collections improved modestly, and the deficit
shrank to $.3 trillion annualized.
Republicans insist that President Obama has exploded the size of federal
government spending in his tenure as President, and it is true that he has
increased it. But President Bush actually increased federal spending by more
than 2X as much as Obama has.
Federal government spending has risen under President Obama, mostly because
of the $00 billion stimulus designed to offset the massive recession he
inherited from President Bush. But the increase in federal spending under
Obama is dwarfed by the colossal increase under President Bush . . . From
2000 to 2008, under President Bush, Federal spending rose by $.3 trillion,
from $.9 trillion a year to $.2 trillion a year.
From 2009 to 2011, meanwhile, under President Obama, federal spending has
risen by $00 billion, from $.2 trillion a year to $.8 trillion a year.
It has also now begun to decline. In other words, federal government
spending under President Bush increased 2X as much as it has under President
What really troubles me, aside from the hypocrisy of those wanting to blame
Obama for spending increases properly credited to Bush, is that the increase
in government spending isn't the only factor that has caused the deficit.
What some pols conveniently (deliberately?) forget is the precipitous
fall-off in government revenue from taxes.
Sadly, Obama's stimulus hasn't had as big an impact on the economy or tax
collections as he and his advisors like Tax Cheatin' Timmy G. promised it
would. The sheer enormity of the mess Obama inherited suggests it's
possible that nothing would have fixed our stalled economy by now.
Approaching the next election even rabid Obama supporters are unhappy with
his over-promising along with many of the decisions he has made. But who's
*really* to blame?
There are two reasons for the collapse. The Bush tax cuts, which reduced
revenue, and the weak economy, which has reduced the incomes and capital
gains upon which most federal taxes are based.
President Bush cut taxes in 2001 and 2003. These tax cuts hit federal
revenue, while federal spending growth continued. This combination
ballooned the deficit in the early years of the Bush presidency.
By the middle years of the Bush presidency, however, on the strength of the
housing boom and strong economic growth (much of it, unfortunately, was
illusory: built on borrowed money with too much leveraging and too little
real collateral) federal revenues began to grow rapidly. By 2007, in fact,
the gap had almost closed. But that huge surge wasn't sustainable. When
the housing bubble burst the economy plunged into deep recession. And then
President Bush handed President Obama the worst recession in more than 70
years, leaving Obama to both take the blame and clean up the mess.
The recession eviscerated federal revenues, which still have not regained
their 2007 bubble highs. President Obama's stimulus, meanwhile, helped add
about $00 billion to federal spending. The combination of these two factors
ballooned the deficit from $00 billion when President Bush left office to
nearly $.3 trillion now.
Even those who believe the "Bush Boom" was real and not just debt-fueled
"book cooking" will eventually have to admit the recession and financial
crisis began on his watch, and the deficit was already exploding when
President Obama took office. It's very hard to escape the conclusion that
President Bush bears a lot of the responsibility for our current quagmire.
A quick look at:
There are several unmistakable bulges in the deficit that correspond to the
Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWII and the AfRaq wars. Wars cost money
and to cut taxes in the middle of a war projected to cost more than 3
trillion dollars was almost certain to increase the deficit. But voters on
the right appear to believe that Great War Fairy will magically appear and
cover those debts. Voters on the left also appear to believe the Medicare
and Social Security Fairies will magically cover the shortfalls that will
soon plague those programs. These fairytales will eventually come to a very
unhappy ending as long as spending overtakes revenues.
In apportioning blame, it's important to note that Congress approved all of
the decisions by both Presidents regarding the economy. Both sides have
contributed mightily to the mess that is our current economy.
Voters were deliriously happy as Congress cut taxes and increased spending -
we had, so we thought, our cake and got to eat it, too. Some are cheering
now as Republicans promise us that by cutting taxes and spending we'll find
our way out of the deep, dark woods. In the real world, Greece and the UK
have shown that enacting austerity in the midst of a fragile recovery
doesn't work. Less spending results in even less growth and less tax
revenues. It's a bitter, vicious cycle that in the past has often led to
war when economics caved in on themselves and entire countries entered
economic death spirals.
In short, we all want our free lunch. We expect the Great War Fairy to pick
up the tab for wars that have gone on twice as long as WWII and with victory
just as elusive as it was on day one. Politicians know how much we like our
wars and our welfare, and promise more each election even though the numbers
tell us that at some point in the future the waiter is going to bring us a
check for all those lunches and we'll end up having to wash dishes to pay
for it. Lots and lots of dishes. Very dirty dishes.
What troubles me the most is that former and current SecDefs from both
parties agree that this is exactly the wrong time to force across the board
cuts on the Pentagon. I'm not sure we'll ever learn the lesson of staying
away from wars of choice, as SecDef Gates (R) said, because wars of
necessity come along often enough. With tensions rising both with China and
Iran, will we have both the stomach and resources to deal effectively with
those situations? Those former SecDefs say no, and I tend to agree with
<<The arguments against defense cuts haven't just come from the right,
though. Secretary of Defense Panetta has been arguing against them since
August and, most recently, just yesterday: Automatic spending cuts that
could result from a special congressional committee's failure to reach a
deficit-reduction agreement could "tear a seam" in defense, Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday.>>
Reading some of the China news agencies comments reminds me of what the
Japanese were saying about our interfering in their oil supply chain:
<<First, it is an unwise move if it insists on playing a meddling hand in
the South China Sea disputes. Some analysts take it risky that Washington
would stake its prestige on a remote and strategically third-rate ally when
it provokes a clash with a neighboring far stronger nation, whom the U.S.
has been increasingly counting on to recover its dislocated economy, combat
terrorism and shared challenges, and deal with a host of global problems.
A couple of months ago, Prof. Lyle Goldstein painted a doleful picture in
the Foreign Policy magazine. He said if U.S. leaders heed his advice, they
should shed most commitments in Southeast Asia, which he portrays as a
region of trivial importance situated adjacent to an increasingly powerful
China. He maintained that "Southeast Asia matters not a whit in the global
balance of power."
When tense maritime stand-offs occur in the heated region, it is wise for
the U.S. to avoid getting embroiled in the intricate disputes poisoning
regional politics, in lieu of what it is currently doing: sowing discord or
acting as an agitator in the flare-up. Otherwise, Washington risks a new
diplomatic setback for the so-called unconceivable "gains.">>
We're already on the glidepath to a confrontation. It could even come to a
head right before the 2012 election. All that has to happen is that someone
in either government does something truly stupid. I mean how likely is