Sunday, August 14, 2011

Betty McCollum/NYTimes Tricky Chart "Policy Changes Under Two Presidents"

Defending the Bush administrations penchant for spending is difficult for a conservative, however the injustice of this particular canard is worth the attempt.  This chart (shown below, originally from the inventive mind's at the NYTimes) was what  Rep Betty McCollum kept referring to in her talk at the 8/9/2011 Townhall.  It is an interesting and admittedly ingenious attempt to continue the "blame Bush" syndrome that has grown up amidst the liberal/progressive activists and intelligentsia.  It represents a particularly pointless and strange phenomena that has never been used so prominently, nor for so long, by an administration and their adherents before. I don't remember George W Bush using the Clinton era internet bubble recession, or even the 9/11 attack, as such a consistent scape goat for the very real and significant problems that he faced when he came to office.  I don't believe (though I am sure there are those who will attempt to disabuse me of that belief) that Regan admonished the first Carter administration continuously and frequently for the disaster that he inherited, and which we are now repeating.

First let's see exactly what Rep Betty McCollum said at the Townhall, and the chart she used from the New York Times, then, let's dissect the chart point by point, and show why I believe it is such an egregious canard.

Betty McCollum and the progressive strategists at NYT, and elsewhere, may believe this is "damning evidence" but I'm not so sure its a very good representation of "truth".  So let's dissect this chart point by point. Policies that are in place and actively spending money should show up in that years CBO spending.  So let's see when each policy began, and what the real dollar deficits look like.

"Bush Tax Cuts" were implemented in 2001, and Obama has fortunately chosen to continue them.  During the Bush presidency this accounted for $1.5 trillion, to which Obama has added $1.3 trillion in his 2 years 9 months in office. during his two and a half years in office.  These tax cuts are part of the reason why so many people below $50,000 pay NO federal income taxes.  How much more progressive can you get? Oh, yeah, the earned income credits, etc, redistribution system giving unearned money to lower income people.  The end result that according to the AP, 40% of people "make a profit from the federal income tax".   So why don't they love it?  Beyond all that, the act of letting people keep their own money and calling it a "new cost" is an example of using deceptive propaganda techniques.

National defense is actually one of the few constitutional federal provisions.  The Afghanistan war began in Oct 2001, and the Iraq War began Mar 20, 2003.  So the wars that began as a result of an attack on our soil (lets not get into an argument over the "necessity" of the Iraq War, it's not germane to this discussion) were part of the spending during the Bush years.  The significant portion of the costs of Iraq war essentially occurred during the Bush presidency, who began limited troop reductions in 2008, and left the completion for the next president.  President Obama has further reduced Iraq  spending, but increased Afghanistan, in addition to starting up a third new conflict in Libya  which will reach an additional $1.1 billion by the end of Sept.

The TARP program, like it or hate it (I was personally in the doubtful but hopeful camp on this) was originally envisioned as a short term fix that would be repaid to the taxpayers as the banks recovered.  In fact it apparently achieved that part of the goal and even made some money, but has since been essentially used as a special Obama "slush fund" since, see here,  and here for political gain .  So the net cost to the taxpayers should have been ZERO, unlike what the chart shows, but the continued use by the Obama administration and others has made it a continued liability.

The 2008 Stimulus was called for by President Elect Obama, but is entirely attributed to Bush in this disingenuous chart. At a minimum it should be a shared policy, but Obama went further in demanding it, or he'd do it!
"NYTimes Nov 7, 2008 Mr. Obama called on Congress and the Bush administration to pass an economic stimulus package. If an agreement cannot be reached this month in the lame-duck Congressional session, he said, it will be his chief goal when he takes office on Jan. 20."
So we, Rep McCollum and the activists at the NYTimes, need to accept the fact, Obama really owns this one, as well as the "son of stimulus" that is already in the chart on his rather diminished side.

The Medicare Drug plan was enacted Dec 8, 2003.  First, if it hadn't been enacted by George W Bush, it most certainly would have been part of the Obamacare plan, so one shouldn't be too quick to place it ideologically under Bush alone.  Second, as a conservative, I could never quite understand the progressive's reaction to this plan.  I understand why I and other conservatives thought it was undesirable, but this would seem to be ideologically right in line with progressive thinking.  Regardless of its merits, the costs of the program were baked into George W's budgets from that point on, and should be evident in any chart showing real spending.

The rather ill defined "non-discretionary" spending is simply too vague to analyze at this point.  I will have to let the chart below speak to it.  The 2008, 2009, 2010 sudden rise in the Nondefense curve show the dramatic rise spending, due to the TARP, Stimulus, and Son of Stimulus that Barack Obama is now using as his baseline spending. Each of his budgets, proposed but never passed, has reflected this continued, or rather is exceeding this, level of spending.  [Note Congress, in particular the Democrats and the Budget Committee which Rep Betty McCollum is on, refused to pass a budget, until the Republicans took the House this year and passed a budget that was killed by the Democrat Senate]


So the results of this analysis show that almost any policy that has been attributed to George W Bush should be well reflected in a chart of spending during his presidency 2001-2008.  One can argue that 2009 reflected a Bush budget (especially since we haven't had one since), but I believe the analysis above has shown that Barack Obama inescapably shared and "demanded" the TARP and Stimulus programs, and thus completely owns the 2009 spending as well.  So what is the actual chart of spending deficits and Obama proposed budget projections?  It shows that Bush spent way too much, no surprise there, but Barack Obama has made that spending look like small change!

Thus I am not sure that Rep Betty McCollum's speech really shows the correct analysis of our National debt and deficit crisis and thus would probably never address the real problems.  Remember that!

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