Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 27, 2011

SURPRISED BY THE DEGREE OF SURPRISE.... The day of President Obama's inauguration, the federal budget deficit left by the Republican administration was $1.3 trillion. After some additional economy-saving measures were added to the mix, the 2009 deficit reached $1.4 trillion. Last year, things improved slightly, and the deficit fell to $1.29 trillion.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office warned lawmakers that the budget picture was poised to get worse again, projecting a $1.5 trillion deficit this year.

Summarizing the thoughts of many, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Roll Call, "I think everyone is in a collective state of shock right now over the CBO numbers."

Really? Why is Congress so surprised? Frankly, I'm a little shocked by their collective state of shock.

This really isn't complicated. The deficit picture was starting to improve, but congressional Republicans insisted that Bush-era tax breaks get extended for another two years. How did Republicans propose paying for these tax cuts? They didn't -- the GOP said the price tag should just be added to the deficit.

And wouldn't you know it, that means ... I hope you're sitting down ... the deficit will go up, just as lawmakers were told it would if they cut taxes without paying for them.

The government's budget deficit will soar to nearly $1.5 trillion this year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday, an anticipated but politically galvanizing calculation that further intensified the partisan battle over the nation's fiscal future.

The $1.5 trillion deficit projection is $414 billion higher than its previous estimate, in August, and reflects in part the tax cut deal last month between President Obama and Republicans.

The fact that Congress is surprised only reinforces the fact that Republicans aren't paying close enough attention to reality. There's no great mystery here -- the deficit is going up because of the new round of tax cuts. That's what happens when one cuts taxes -- less revenue means higher deficits.

If Republicans didn't want a higher deficit, they shouldn't have fought so hard to make it worse. They had a choice -- expensive tax breaks or deficit reduction. They made their choice, were told what the consequences would be, and are now stunned by the realization that the rules of arithmetic haven't been suspended by the GOP's force of will.

It's unclear to me why Republicans aren't confronted with hysterical laughter when they claim credibility on fiscal issues. This is a party that inherited a massive surplus a decade ago, when we were actually paying off our debt. The GOP proceeded to squander the surplus, add $5 trillion to the debt in just eight years, and then demand Democrats clean up their mess.

When Dems did just that and the deficit picture started to improve, Republicans then demanded tax breaks that once again made the budget shortfall worse.

Deficit hawks that vote Republican are tragically confused. There's never been a more fiscally irresponsible political party.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

But, but, but...tax cuts pay for themselves!

Posted by: martin on January 27, 2011 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

It has been proven that deficits don't matter .

Posted by: FRP on January 27, 2011 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans also forget why the stimulus was so expensive, AND ineffective; It was mostly friggin tax cuts.

I happen to believe that not every federal dollar spent is the same. If we have to borrow the money, and pay interest on it, why not spend it on something that is likely to increase future economic activity? Like, oh I don't know, Nuclear power generation or something.

Do these people in DC have any brains at all?

Posted by: ant on January 27, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Would they remember the tax cuts better if we called them what they are--the Obama tax cuts?

Posted by: DayHiker on January 27, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

What's amazing is that this isn't algebra, or calc, or even trig, it's simple addition and subraction.
And history has shown if you want to you want to add to the deficit, add more Republicans, and if you want to subract from the deficit, subract more Republicans.
See? It' simple!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 27, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

If Republicans didn't want a higher deficit, they shouldn't have fought so hard to make it worse.

Spot freakin' on. That sentence needs to be said by every Democrat who speaks to the media for the next year, every time. The Republicans obviously think the deficit is a winning issue for them, but a little message discipline can help turn the tables.

Posted by: Gregory on January 27, 2011 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

"If Republicans didn't want a higher deficit, they shouldn't have fought so hard to make it worse. "

If there were a Pulitzer Prize for concision in commentary, Steve Benen would be a shoo-in.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 27, 2011 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Where is the tax fairy when you need him?

Posted by: John R on January 27, 2011 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

It is a known fact that shaved, bipedal feral cats are more fiscally responsible than these Republicans. After all, when was the last time you saw a shaved, bipedal feral cat demonstrate the stupidity of saying "tax cuts pay for themselves?" Why, one might even go so far as to note that a shaved, bipedal feral cat has never apologized to Rush Limbaugh, joined a Tea Party Facebook group, or attended a Sarah Palin political rally....

Posted by: S. Waybright on January 27, 2011 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's unclear to me why Republicans aren't confronted with hysterical laughter when they claim credibility on fiscal issues.

Oh, I don't know.

Could it be because the conservative-owned mass media in this country are on a mission to confuse and obfuscate?

Posted by: terraformer on January 27, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Can anyone tell me (or am I losing my mind) that the Chamber of Commerce came out and praised the Obama stimulus for the number of jobs it created and saved?

Posted by: js on January 27, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Right on cue, the republicans are beginning to fight the cuts in the defense budget (you know, the tanks that don't work etc that were highlighted in Rachels show last week)as expected, the defense industry that makes useless weapons that cannot be used are probably giving kickbacks to repubs.

Posted by: joan on January 27, 2011 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

G.H.W. Bush in the 1980 primaries accused now canonized R. Reagan of "voodoo economics." Reagan led the way by calling a major overhaul of the tax code "a tax cut", when it did the opposite, and also added several trillions to the national debt. All the while pretending to support frugality.

Not much has changed. Bush I's son actually did cut taxes for the rich, continued spending on illegal wars and ran up the national debt as a consequence of not paying for those cuts or those wars.

Meanwhile, the fed prints money, gives it to Wall Street, the Chinese own us, and the name of the game is still to impoverish the middle-class and poor. We have lost our social mobility, the middle-class is disappearing as fast as the dinosaurs after the comet hit the Yucatan, and the Dim-Dems can't get themselves arrested.

When it crashes it will happen suddenly.

Posted by: rrk1 on January 27, 2011 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Let me convert this to an analogy your average tea partier can understnd. Last year your income was $30,000. It takes all your money and more for you to pay your rent, make your car payment, buy food, pay utilities. At Christmas time your boss tells you that he wants to take a nice trip so your salary has been reduced to $27,000. You will have to eat less, rent a cheaper apartment, turn off your lights, or give up your health insurance. Of course, you can put the difference on your credit card.

It is never supposed to occur to you that you wouldn't have to suffer if the big boss just paid you the same amount as last year or maybe a little more.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 27, 2011 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are trying to create a fiscal
crisis while manipulating the public so they
believe the only cure is eliminating Social
Security and Medicare. Writing blog posts about how misinformed Republicans are is completely missing the point. They are not misinformed or stupid, they are manipulating public opinion and the government to reach a very specific goal. And they are doing a good job. The next Republican president may be able to achieve their goal.

Posted by: edb on January 27, 2011 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are Political Savants - Geniuses at talking the language of elections, but imbeciles regarding the math (and how to govern in general)! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 27, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Our Senators and Congresspersons are in a collective state of shock because they want to be in a collective state of shock.

Fortunately, this collective state of shock will provide the impetus to take actions that will address the devastating effects of our out-of-control federal spending and deficits.

Every knowledgeable person knows that now is the time to implement Congressman Ryan's 'Roadmap'. Everyone knows that we need to increase taxes on the middle and lower classes to decrease the deficit. Everyone knows that we need to lower taxes on the wealthy so that they will create more jobs and thusly provide long term deficit relief. Everyone knows that we need to lower our long term deficits and save social security by privatizing it, raising retirement ages, and reducing retirement benefits. Everyone knows that medicare costs need to be reduced by turning it into a voucher system.

Obviously, some shock therapy is needed to be applied to the working classes of Americans so that our country's long term well being can be saved. Fortunately, our corporately owned media will reinforce this message to Americans.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on January 27, 2011 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

edb is right, of course. We are complicit by not screaming the truth on very media outlet we can find.

Of course, that would require an organized progressive group publishing press releases, and making elected officials available to our friends in the press. One thing we aren't is organized. Look to the Repubicans ginning up a deficit crisis. They want the social security trust fund and they are going to get it if we don't stop them.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 27, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

"It's unclear to me why Republicans aren't confronted with hysterical laughter when they claim credibility on fiscal issues."

It should be the goal of every Democrat, liberal and progressive to make this happen.

Posted by: zandru on January 27, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK


I guess you can blame the Republicans & Fox News for their cynicism, but nobody makes people vote for them and watch their programs. The problem with the country isn't the elites as much as the Texas-size tumor of stupidity among the masses.

Posted by: beejeez on January 27, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

I hated this agreement; I couldn't believe the Prez caved (well okay, not so much disbelief), the complete and utter bullshit tea-baggers were not completely up in arms and now the (R)tards are going to feign disgust over their own actions and get away with it again.. I love that story, I love to hear it over and over and over again, really! Does anyone not get tired of this?

Posted by: Trollop on January 27, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Would they remember the tax cuts better if we called them what they are--the Obama tax cuts?" I'd say be quiet, they might get an idea, but we all know that this was their plan from the beginning.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on January 27, 2011 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure that a week or so ago the Speaker of the House declared the CBO an agency that only provided opinions on things...not actual real stuff to be acted on. Don't tell me the GOP has changed their minds on that.

Posted by: T2 on January 27, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

I believe that Mark Kirk is using the word "shock" in the Casablanca Claude Rains/Captain Renault sense.


Obama: How can you be opposed to my economic plan?
Kirk: We're shocked, shocked to find the deficit is expanding.
Rich Contributors: Your campaign funds, Kirk.
Kirk (sotto voce): Oh, thank you very much.
(aloud)
Kirk: Everybody! Obama's plan is unrealistic! Democrats out!

Sadly, I don't think Mark Kirk will turn out to be a good guy at the end of the movie.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 27, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Ant & Joan -
"Do these people in DC have any brains at all? "

"...the defense industry that makes useless weapons that cannot be used are probably giving kickbacks to repubs."

That was merely rhetorical, right?

Higher math scores would be another demographic trend dooming the Rethugican party. That is why they defund schools and teach Creationism.

Posted by: OKDem on January 27, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

This post should be on the left-hand op-ed page of the NY Times and WaPo.

But, of course, the corporate masters of those papers would never allow the truth to get in the way of their propaganda.

Posted by: LL on January 27, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is this issue of the increased deficit will fall on the Democrats and it will be used to defeat Obama and a lot of other democrats. Dems were in charge when it was approved so Dems will be blamed. And to a certain degree they are responsible. They should have grown a backbone and said NO to the tax cuts.

Posted by: Wayne on January 27, 2011 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Deficit hawks that vote Republican are tragically confused. There's never been a more fiscally irresponsible political party.

I was surprised to see Jon Meacham call out the Republicans on Charlie Rose the other night. He flat out said the Republicans ran up deficits like crazy and have no credibility as fiscal conservatives.


Posted by: Joe Friday on January 27, 2011 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

the "Bush Tax Cuts", the "Obama Deficit"

Posted by: anonymouss on January 27, 2011 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kirk's expression of shock is stunningly silly.

Almost as silly: Steve's explanation of what drove the projection up:

"This really isn't complicated. The deficit picture was starting to improve, but congressional Republicans insisted that Bush-era tax breaks get extended for another two years. How did Republicans propose paying for these tax cuts? They didn't -- the GOP said the price tag should just be added to the deficit."

Steve's explanation is technically accurate, but just barely.

"Congressional Republicans insisted that Bush-era tax breaks get extended for another two years?" In fact, Obama supported the overwhelming majority of the tax breaks involved here. This includes the AMT fix, the payroll tax holiday, and about 80 percent of the money lost when the Bush tax rates were extended. The vast majority of the revenue lost because of this bill was agreed to by both parties. This includes everything except the extension of the Bush tax rates for the top two percent--a very small part of the dollars involved in this package.

"Congressional Republicans insisted that Bush-era tax breaks get extended for another two years?" For years, I used to marvel at the way Sean Hannity treated his viewers like rubes.

Posted by: bob somerby on January 27, 2011 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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