Sunday, October 3, 2010

Moving Beyond Political Blame: Honest Viewing of The Debt

Candy Crowley's State of the Union interviewed Republican Ed Gillespie where he indicated that President Obama had significantly raised the deficit far worse than President Bush. This is not a new claim, but one that the Right has perpetuated on talk radio, on social media, on blogs, on Fox, and so on. Even Politifact can't seem to get it right, as they evaluated a Dick Durbin statement in June:
For those keeping track, the debt estimate for the end of 2010 -- two years into Obama's term -- is $13.787 trillion. That's a 38 percent increase over two years. Looked at another way, the debt under Bush went up $4.357 trillion over eight years, while it has gone up under Obama by $3.801 trillion in two years.
However, they seem to have changed their evaluation in August, when evaluating a Chip Rogers claim:
Third is that it's not fair to blame Obama for budgets that he didn't control, Riedl said. The 2009 budget went into effect Oct. 1, 2008, almost four months before Obama took office.
By Riedl's reckoning, for 2009, you can hold Obama responsible for discretionary spending he signed off on after he took office, plus the $220 billion of the stimulus package spent that year. You can also pin the debt for fiscal year 2010 on him as well.

This comes to about $2.1 trillion,...

The easiest way to explain this is as follows:

The federal budget does not start in January. It starts on October 1. That means the budget ends on September 30.

When a President takes office, he has eight months to work with Congress to get a budget passed. When President Obama took office, the spending going on was from President Bush's budget. On October 1, 2009, President Obama's first budget took effect. Given that the budget was passed in 2008, it is impossible to blame President Obama for the budget ending in 2009.

In fairness, sometimes, emergency spending measures are passed that impact the immediate budget. In 2009, the Stimulus Bill had some tax measures that did affect the 2009 budget, estimated to cost about $220 billion. However, most of the stimulus bill took effect in 2010.

To assign credit/blame, let's look at the budget numbers.

When President Bush's first budget was passed in 2001, the debt was: $5,807,463,412,200.06.

When President Bush's last budget ended, the debt in 2009 was: $11,909,829,003,511.75.

About $220 billion of the 2009 deficit belonged to President Obama, so to be fair, we will take it out to make the number $11,689,829,003,511.75.

We are not counting the 2001 tax cuts that took effect in 2001 and applied to the Clinton budget because we don't have a good value for that. So President Bush gets a favorable accounting for his debt evaluation.

Thus, President Bush's credit/blame for the debt over 8 years is valued at $5,882,365,591,311.69 or an increase of 101.28% over what he inherited.

It is time that we move past the ignorance of "on my watch" blaming and credit for actions when many of the actions were put in place prior to someone taking office, or happened with no relation to the person in office.

Until we get a better understanding of our world, we will continue to credit and blame politicians for things totally unrelated to them. We will also continue to insist that government is responsible for the consequences in our world, even when they had nothing to do with it or should have nothing to do with it. We need to look at what is really going on, seek to understand it realistically not ideologically, and move towards individual action first.

In some cases, political action needs to happen. But too often, we get so caught up in assigning blame, we don't even seek to find out why something really happened. The recession didn't happen because of political actions of the GOP or the DNC, but because of basic demographics. Yet, both sought blame very quickly. We must move past that.

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