Political Animal


July 25, 2011 10:40 AM Blame where blame is due

By Steve Benen

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough recently surprised me by identifying the culprit for the nation’s fiscal mess. “Let’s make no mistake about it right now: increasing this debt ceiling? This is George W. Bush and the Republican Party’s debt,” the former Republican congressman said. Scarborough added, “This is George W. Bush’s debt…. You can’t just put this on Barack Obama.”

With this in mind, note the chart the New York Times published over the weekend, using data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It identifies which administration, the current one or its predecessor, is more responsible for the increase in the nation’s debt. (click on the image for a larger view)

In the interest of providing more context, it’s also worth noting that Bush didn’t act alone — Republican lawmakers like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell supported the fiscally-irresponsible policies every step of the way, voting for the agenda that created all that debt. Republicans admit that they saw the entire eight years as a period in which it was “standard practice not to pay for things.”

As a result, Republicans inherited a large surplus and turned it into a massive deficit. GOP officials took a budget that was on track to eliminate the national debt altogether and instead added nearly $5 trillion to it.

And now these same Republicans claim the high ground on fiscal issues, and demand that President Obama clean up their mess immediately. Worse, they demand he do so in a way they find pleasing, or next week, they’ll crash the economy on purpose.

Last week, a House Republican said he didn’t feel like allowing the nation to pay its bills, because, as he put it, “Why should we give Barack Obama $2.4 trillion? It’s his debt.”

Maybe someone should pass this chart around to GOP lawmakers. They could apparently benefit from the reminder.

Update: John Cole reminds me that NBC’s David Gregory, just last week, passed along the GOP line uncritically: “It’s the Democrats who have run up the debt since President Obama got into office.” Here’s hoping someone let’s Gregory know about the chart, too.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • wvng on July 25, 2011 10:45 AM:

    "Maybe someone should pass this chart around to GOP lawmakers. They could apparently benefit from the reminder." No they won't. They won't believe it.

  • Jon on July 25, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Yeah, the mendacity of the GOP leadership is totally over the top. So how come that isn't common knowledge? Why do they feel so secure propagating outright lies that are easily and conclusively disprovable? Why isn't that they apparently feel no fear of being called to account for their lies?

  • Jon on July 25, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Make that "Why is it that" please.

    Bottom line, the blame belongs with the press as much or more than the GOP politicians. Politicians will lie if you let them. The counter to that is supposed to be a free press. Every story on the debt limit should start by pointing out that it's a manufactured crisis designed by a rampantly hypocritical GOP for blatantly political ends.

  • c u n d gulag on July 25, 2011 10:52 AM:

    That them there's a Liberal chart.

    Juss switch them names 'roun' an' it'll tell ya the truth.
    You juss scratch out Bush, and write in Obammy.

    See? Not that there's a accurate Conservative chart.


    It's not that Republican members of Congress don't see the information, it's that they either ignore it or deny it.
    Too accept it as truth, is to accept responsibility.

  • Mr. Serf Man on July 25, 2011 10:53 AM:

    There you go again with yer gol durn fernickity facts. Here in the Faux Bubble we don't need no facts other than it's all Obama's fault and Gubbmint is too big.

  • T-Rex on July 25, 2011 10:54 AM:

    Jon: For the same reason that they feel comfortable saying that "from 2000 to 2008, during Bush's administration, there were no terrorist attacks on American soil." It's classic Orwellian double-think.

    If you slipped them a truth serum, I think they'd say that Bush's debts were different because he was white. They have it firmly lodged in their heads that any tax increase under Obama will be used to make "reparations" to black Americans.

  • Matt on July 25, 2011 10:56 AM:

    No, someone should send this to the Democrats. In every interview and sound bite they should be saying "Bush's debt" or the "Republican deficit" This Dem party is worse at messaging and framing than a junior high school campaign for class president.

  • T2 on July 25, 2011 10:56 AM:

    the GOP obviously doesn't care about any charts....they want to kill so-called "entitlements" and they want to ensure the same Debt Ceiling mess is at fever pitch a year from now during the presidential campaign. They are incredibly transparent. A large majority of them voted for the Tax Cut, the Wars and Deregulation of FInancial Corporate, i.e. they know exactly why the economy and the Deficit and the Debt Ceiling is where it is. They caused it. They don't care. They want to defeat Obama. It is always All Politics with these criminals. That's why they insist on a short term hike....so it will be a political toy next year. I guarantee, if they elect a president and keep the House, we'll not hear a word about the Deficit or Debt Ceiling for 8 years.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 25, 2011 10:57 AM:

    This kind of late acknowledgment of the facts by the NYT is beyond irritating. This has been known for ever. CBPP has made available this information for over a year, and yet it will not be acknowledged. I'll gather up my links that will explain to anyone just exactly why this fiscal mess if 100% Republicans and Republican ideas. It's beyond damning. Yet noone listens. I'm getting angrier as I type.

    Captcha Oracle: nation's orkeepa

  • Danp on July 25, 2011 11:00 AM:

    What is the $773B for 2008 under "stimulus and other changes?" I only recall about $75B for stimulus.

  • CDW on July 25, 2011 11:01 AM:

    I wonder why the times left off the wars which Obama has not ended; in the case of Afghanistan he increased our commitment and and in the case of Libya, he started the conflict. Are those not policy changes?

  • steve duncan on July 25, 2011 11:01 AM:

    Democrats are bad people because Jane Fonda sat on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. Dems smoke dope, listen to that devil music "Rock-n-Roll", go to teh gay movies and read teh gay books. On the other hand, Republicans beat Hitler, love their mothers and think teh gay is terrible. God loves Republicans. Democrats drop Jesus on the cross into bottles of piss and think at heart we're all monkeys. Ergo, disregard the polls and keep in mind whatever the gay treasonous atheistic dopers (and their Lamestream media butt-buddies!) tell you is a LIE!!

    That is all you need to know about how middle America (i.e. voters) looks at the budget debate.

  • kevo on July 25, 2011 11:02 AM:

    Further data that makes the current Republican efforts not only untenable, but also insulting to a free and liberty-minded people! -Kevo

  • walt on July 25, 2011 11:03 AM:

    The alternative reality zone Republicans live in upends empirical reality and replaces it with belief. How do they get away with this? Well, the easy way is to deconstruct facts in such ways that you can argue that Clinton's surplus wasn't a surplus, that Reagan's tax cuts paid for themselves, that Saddam's WMD were hidden in Syria, that Valerie Plame was a secretary, that....ad infinitum.

    Facts don't matter. What matters is that Republican zealotry creates its own reality. That's where we are now. That's why our discussions have this surreal quality about them. We're talking to fundamentalists who pick and choose their inerrant truths based on their ad hoc utility for the particular argument. Everything they assert is based on this strategy. They play to win, not to advance some common quest for human betterment. These people are empty vessels filled up with certitude and delusion.

    Our republic is in deep, deep trouble.

  • marty on July 25, 2011 11:09 AM:

    "And now these same Republicans claim the high ground on fiscal issues, and demand that President Obama clean up their mess immediately."

    That might be the most sickening thing about this whole mess...being preached to (and often in the most smug and self-satisfied tones) by the likes of Ryan, Cantor, DeMint, etc. about all the "hard choices" we supposedly have to make while they all created this mess is judt too much to take.

  • FRP on July 25, 2011 11:10 AM:

    There is a known difficulty using truth serum with subjects whose existence is an act devoted to appearing human , all the better to cozy up to the thread of life . The better to snip it , my pretty .

    Sociopath me this
    Sociopath me that
    Sociopath never pass a lie
    That was not living as
    Both sworn oath and its
    Kissing cousin
    Swearing lying oaf

  • foosion on July 25, 2011 11:11 AM:

    Why does Bush start in 2002 rather than 2001?

  • ceilidth on July 25, 2011 11:12 AM:

    The current Republicans may claim they didn't like Bush's deficit spending but it was Bush and Cheney's policies: unfunded wars, new unfunded entitlements, refusal to regulate that created the recession and brought the Republican Party to it current goals: destroy the economy and the middle class and hand it over to the richest few Americans who no longer need the rest of us to remain rich. All the rest of us can depend on Jesus, the "Jesus" who supported the rich and hated the poor.

  • Lifelong Dem on July 25, 2011 11:13 AM:

    David Gregory is not a journalist. The video of him hip-hop dancing with "M.C" Rove a few years back should be played every week, right before the beginning of Meet The Press.

  • golack on July 25, 2011 11:14 AM:

    Obama has the wars on budget--so they are included in the overall defense dept savings.

    Looks like Obama been trying to get the fiscal house in order. If he can get some of the tax loopholes closed, we might even have get to paying down the debt.

    Sad thing is, Alice Rivlin on this weeks This Week literally claimed Obama should have been trying to have long term plans to tackle the deficit even while he was fighting to save the economy. Talk about head in the sand--apparently she missed the health reform act, his taking on the military-industrial complex to cut defense spending, and arguing for letting the Bush tax cuts expire on the wealthy (which would have at least delayed this current fight a bit). Apparently she didn't bother to look at the above projections either.

  • FRP on July 25, 2011 11:20 AM:

    steve duncan
    I like the life in your diagram . No sharp edges and directly linked to every bad thing that ever happened . According to the gospels of the moral majority .

    Our republic is defended by a vigorous press which afflicts the comfortable , and comforts the afflicted .

  • Gummo on July 25, 2011 11:23 AM:

    Walt sums up the dual-reality universe we're now living in beautifully.

    The only thing he leaves out is the unprecedented level of concentration of media ownership that allows 5-6 corporations to control all mass media information in this country so that right-wing tropes are beamed into America's homes 24 hours a day with no pushback (or even facts) allowed to get in the way....

  • JW on July 25, 2011 11:23 AM:

    Be sure it's a paper copy that congressional republicans and David Gregory receive. That way they can at least put it to good use if they happen to go camping this summer.

  • Mr. Serf Man on July 25, 2011 11:29 AM:

    I think one of the big drivers of Obama's numbers was putting the wars on the books - someone correct me if I'm wrong

  • jeri on July 25, 2011 11:33 AM:

    "Why does Bush start in 2002 rather than 2001?"

    I don't know. Because he eased into the job by beginning with vacation?

  • Kane on July 25, 2011 11:34 AM:

    It would be one thing if GOP lawmakers and David Gregory didn't know about these numbers. It's something quite different when they are well aware of these numbers but continue to pass along the lies.

  • jjm on July 25, 2011 11:58 AM:

    I was literally thrilled to see the NYT publish this chart at very long last. I am hoping the new editor, Jill Abramson, will rid the paper of Keller's apparent commitment to 'fair and balanced false equivalencies.' I also spread the chart to as many blogs as I could.

    Also today: Brit Hume admits government shutdown would be blamed on GOP http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/brit-hume-admits-government-shutdown-would

    Keep up informing the public and ultimately some of the truth sifts through.

  • Paul Papanek on July 25, 2011 12:06 PM:

    Here's what David Gregory does nearly every week: Some right-winger intones a clear lie, and then David proclaims "Right. We'll have to leave it there."

    Right? Mr. Gregory? Right?

    It didn't used to be that way on Meet the Press, which has become a destructive channel of pious misinformation.

  • fillphil on July 25, 2011 12:12 PM:

    This is information that ought to be on the front page of every newspapaer and viewed on every TV in America. But we all know, don't we? It won't because the Repubs and Corp America control the info. No. 1 problem in our Country.

  • Reality Bites on July 25, 2011 12:18 PM:

    Adjust Obama's spending over another 6 years, and that becomes a much bigger figure than Bush's. This chart only proves that something big has to change on the spending and tax fronts!

  • jjcomet on July 25, 2011 12:43 PM:

    "Adjust Obama's spending over another 6 years, and that becomes a much bigger figure than Bush's."

    Pardon me, but your ignorance is showing. If we adjust the figures to make the time frame equivalent, it would need to be 5 1/2 years instead of 6. So let's do the math. The equation would be (1.44 trillion/2.5 * 8)= 4.61 trillion, still well short of Bush's total.

    However, even that exercise is specious, since right now there is nothing in the Obama budget that even begins to approach the size and irresponsibility of the Bush tax cuts.

    But thanks for playing.

  • SecularAnimist on July 25, 2011 1:26 PM:

    Steve Benen wrote: "Hereís hoping someone letís Gregory know about the chart, too."

    The Republicans will let David Gregory know about the chart, when they email him their scripted talking points to attack it.

    Also, there should be no apostrophe in "lets" in that sentence.

  • Shelley21VAZQUEZ on December 25, 2011 12:25 AM:

    Don't have enough cash to buy a building? Worry not, just because that's available to get the mortgage loans to resolve such kind of problems. Thus take a bank loan to buy all you want.