Wednesday, June 13, 2012

George W. Bush's Tab

From the Daily Beast, courtesy of an fb friend, former conservative chicken hawk, and current moderate something-or-other Andrew Sullivan lambastes his former Imperious Leader:

When you check reality, rather than the alternate universe constantly created by Fox News and an amnesiac press, you find that Bush had a chance to pay off all our national debt before we hit the financial crisis - giving the US enormous flexibility in intervening to ameliorate the recession. Instead, we had to find money for a stimulus in a cupboard stripped bare - its contents largely given away, by an act of choice. I'm tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it - and remind people that Romney's policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical. With one difference: Bush pledged never "to balance the budget on the backs of the poor."

More here.

Sullivan is riffing on a NYT blog post written by former Reagan and Bush I adviser Bruce Bartlett that crunches a recent CBO report finding that if we had just stuck with Clinton era budget and tax policies, not only would we not be dealing with much deficit spending, but we would also not be dealing with a national debt. If you click through to the Sullivan piece, you'll find a link to the Bartlett post, just in case you, like me, are sort of blinking and wondering if this can possibly be true. But it seems pretty solid: tax cuts and wars of choice sold us all down the river, and it was the Republicans who did it, not the Democrats--indeed, the Democrats had us poised to pull off what the GOP has been clamoring for since I was a kid, the end of the national debt and deficit spending.

Remember, these figures come from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. It's entirely possible, of course, that the figures are wrong, but it is highly unlikely that there is some sort of political bias at work here.

And this tells us a couple of things. First, the Republicans are not serious about deficits and the debt. They don't care about them and have no problem at all bankrupting the nation. Nonetheless, they continue to have a solid reputation for being the fiscally responsible party, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Second, Democrats are serious about deficits and the debt. Historically, and even today, the Democrats have shown again and again a willingness to cut sacred programs and raise taxes to get our fiscal house in order. Nonetheless, they continue to have a solid reputation as the "tax and spend" party, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Conclusion: our politics at the national level are not based on reality. Further conclusion: be afraid; be very afraid.