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Obama, deficits and 'the ditch'

[CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION, 1:22 a.m.: The Twitterer RepJackKimble cited below is not a real member of Congress. The budget deficits are real deficits.]

"Why have the wars cost so much under Obama?" tweeted @RepJackKimble (R-Calif.) at 7:40am on Sept. 2. "Check the budgets, Bush fought 2 wars w/o costing taxpayers a dime." This stunning bit of fiscal ignorance earned him a tart barnyard expletive from @MWJ1231. But that exchange only highlighted the need to remind folks that the soaring deficits that have freaked them out -- and rightly so -- didn't get started with the inauguration of President Obama. They got their start under President George W. Bush in part due to two giant tax cuts that weren't paid for and two big wars that were largely kept off the main federal balance sheet.

Take a look at this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in a report entitled "Critics Still Wrong on What’s Driving Deficits in Coming Years: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers."

CBPP Deficit Chart.jpg

When Obama banished accounting gimmicks with his first budget last year, the result was a budget hole that was $2.7 trillion bigger over 10 years than the nation realized. Yes, the current president had to take actions that added to deficits in the short term. But, as the chart shows, Bush’s tax cuts and the funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make up the majority of the national deficit as the years stretch on. CBPP warns that the tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "if continued, will add another $7 trillion in debt by 2019."

For those of you looking for stats to marshal in arguments with Republican family members and friends, take a look at CBPP's report from March 2008. It criticized Bush for claiming a projected $48 billion surplus by 2012 while neglecting to add the costs for the two wars and for an extension of the Alternative Minimum Tax beyond 2009. And then there was the April 2010 report on Obama's 2011 budget. It whacks him for not "do[ing] enough to put the nation's finances on a sound footing." But it also notes that his budget reduces the deficit "by about $1.3 trillion over ten years" and points out that "these deficits overwhelmingly reflect the policies that Obama inherited, not new policies that he is proposing."

The American people seem to understand this. According to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, 71 percent of those surveyed blame Bush for the nation's dire fiscal straits. Obama is blamed by almost half of them, but 51 percent of them said the economic problems he's handling were inherited. That's why you see the president continually reminding voters that it was Republicans who "drove our economy into a ditch," as he did again yesterday in Wisconsin. Eight weeks from today, we'll find out if the argument is enough to maintain his Democratic majority on Capitol Hill.

By Jonathan Capehart  | September 6, 2010; 10:04 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: Wall-to-wall coverage of Michaele Salahi in Playboy


Still don't understand why letting me keep more of the money I went out and earned "costs" the government money. By that logic, all income belongs to the government first and foremost. They'll allow you a portion of what money you went out and worked for. They redistribute, since they have first crack at my paycheck and hit me with deduction after deduction.

I've always thought the nation should do away with withholding from payroll checks. Make people write out a check 3 or 4 times a year the amount of money they say you owe them. That will open some eyes.

Posted by: Rschrim1 | September 6, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Comeon now, that's a parody account...

Even though a number of prominent Republicans have made it virtually impossible to distinguish between parody and politics, caricature and conviction, I expect that Washington Post reports should work that much harder to discern the difference when one exists and, more importantly, to call attention to the perilous overlap.

Posted by: mbimotmog | September 7, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Which California district does Kimble represent?

And, should that answer reflect on my understanding of this article?

Posted by: billkauf | September 7, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

To keep talking about how Obama "inherited" this situation is to imply that he was sitting there passively, minding his own business, when suddenly the Presidency was conferred upon him. Wrong! He campaigned for this job as hard as anyone ever has, so he didn't simply "inherit" it. If he didn't want to take on the responsibility, he shouldn't have sought the position nor accepted it when he won.

And if it's really someone else's bad driving that left the "car in the ditch" as he is so fond of saying, why doesn't he do us all a big favor and leave the keys in the ignition and resign? Then he'll be free to fly around the world with just about all of the same perks as he has now, while making millions of dollars giving the same kind of hot-air speeches. And he won't have to keep his guard up about accidentally saying what he really thinks about America and the American people -- whether it's the Special Olympics, white police officers, the Ground Zero Mosque, spreading the wealth, Americans who can't speak French except to say "Merci Beaucoup", the "24-hour news cycle", Republicans, etc. He can freely talk about his theories of anthropology, including his belief that he's a mongrel (come to think of it -- why, then, should he mind that his political opponents treat him "like a dog"?), bow to Arabian royalty, and freely hang out with his Muslim bro's.

Yes, it's going to be very interesting when Barry gets to freely speak his mind.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | September 7, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, WP & Capehart. The problem is solved now that we know who caused it.
We can keep being anti-business, passing economy crippling bills like health care, increasing taxes, and borrowing 42 cent of every dollar spent, knowing full well it was their fault.

Posted by: flyover22 | September 7, 2010 7:25 AM | Report abuse

This old saw was worn out a long time ago.

Obama is waging a war in the "necessary" Afghanistan so Dems shouldn't be counting the money Busg spent on that one. Secondly
Obama has spent more than the cost of the two wars in less then two years, quadrupled the deficit and wants to spend 50 billion MORE ON HIS FRIENDS.

Posted by: kalamere | September 7, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

And so it begins...the post-Labor Day push to drag the Dems over the finish line with majorities in both Houses.

Not gonna work, but it won't keep the MSM from trying their damnedest to make our young President look like nothing is his fault.

Posted by: jpmenavich | September 7, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Naturally the "Right Wing" want Obama to stop talking about the "Bush" deficits! It is a constant reminder of a party that complains about the deficit when out of office and cares NOT when they are in office. Please see Cheney's comments that "DEFICITS DON'T MATTER!" Google "cheney deficits don't matter" Then look at the deficits that Reagan, HW Bush and GW Bush ran up!

Posted by: ginger470132 | September 7, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

More Nonsense from liberals. They are out of touch with reality and have created a morass we may never be able to climb out of and are ready to do more damage with new policies to pay off Unions.

Posted by: kalamere | September 7, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Iraq: The War That Broke Us -- Not..

Posted by: skillssss | September 7, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

The last Republican controlled budget, fy2007, had a deficit of only $161 Billion.
During that year the Bush tax cuts were in full effect, spending on the Iraq War was near its' peak, and Medicare part D (prescriptions for old folks) was also in full effect.

So, where are the nearly $1.4 Trillion in NEW expenses since 2007, that account for Obama's massive deficits?

Posted by: mgsorens | September 7, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Irresponsible Dems, Incomprehensible Bills

"While it is obvious that the level of corruption in Washington, D.C. has reached a point where two prominent Democrat Congressmen feel no need to hide their utter lack of responsibility."

Posted by: skillssss | September 7, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Why we miss Bush
Straight shooter vs. 'yuppie' O

"Obama turned Bush's misdemeanor deficits into felonious trillion-dollar annual shortfalls. He'll pile up more debt than any other prior president."

Read more:

Posted by: skillssss | September 7, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Read the constitution. Congress makes the budget. Hillary, Biden, Obama and the other Senators (Democrats and Republicans)passed the budgets for the past decade. Now they pretend that the shortfalls were all Bush, and the press allows it.

Posted by: perplexedtex1 | September 7, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Since there is not budget for 2011, there is no budget deficit.

Looks like the answer is for Congress to do nothing and let all the Bush tax cuts expire. Somehow, that will magically return us to the tech bubble of the Clinton era.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | September 7, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

The last Republican controlled budget, fy2007, had a deficit of only $161 Billion.
During that year the Bush tax cuts were in full effect, spending on the Iraq War was near its' peak, and Medicare part D (prescriptions for old folks) was also in full effect.

So, where are the nearly $1.4 Trillion in NEW expenses since 2007, that account for Obama's massive deficits?

Posted by: mgsorens | September 7, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Because the trillions for the war have never been in any of Bushys budgets, you idiot.

Posted by: mackiejw | September 7, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Business and consumer confidence are down because the country seems to be heading in the same direction as Greece.

A new Congress committed to cutting spending back to Clintonian levels might be enough to inspire consumers to purchase and businesses to take the risks necessary to expand and create jobs.

Posted by: mgsorens | September 7, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Look redderthanever, on the other side of your argument, you can't just sit around and pretend that the mess we are in today all started as soon as Obama took office which is the central message promoted by the GOP and the tea party.

You can slice, dice, splice; you can conflate, inflate and deflate; you can snivel, semper, hiss, titter and sip. You can even huff and puff. But in the final conclusion, this is a conservative failure. The Bush tax cut for the wealthy in 2001 and 2003 did not deliver the promised economic growth. And the surplus in 2001 turned into a huge deficit because of Iraq, a foreign policy disaster that was promised not to cost us a penny. And the obvious failure of conservatives to resource infrastructure--another "socialist" enterprise in their muddled thinking--wrought us the broken levees after Katrina and the Minnesota bridge collapse as well as the BP disaster in the Gulf.

These were disasters brought on directly by the application of conservative economic and social policies. I am not trucking for liberals here. I recognize the failings of big spending programs. But you conservatives cannot duck your own glaring failure.

Posted by: jaxas70 | September 7, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The fy2007 deficit of $161 Billion included the $123 Billion cost of the Iraq War for that year.

It might be well to investigate the facts rather than to call others names!

Posted by: mgsorens | September 7, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Perpexedtex1, for Christs sake! What freaking universe are you living in? You had a conservative republican President whom you all treated as though he were a Deity for 8 years. From 2002 to 2004, you had absolute control of the whole of government and you passed spending programs like crazy. In 2005, you were all giddy over his re-election and blustered about a permanent republican majority. Most of you even ejaculated over a religious reawakening and applauded Bush as some sort of savior. At no point during his administration was there even a peep about deficits. Indeed, you all swooned when Dick Cheney--a conservative hero that nay wanted to run for President--blithely cackled out: "Deficits don't matter!"

Now, here you come trying to sell this notion that it was all the democrats fault. Never, ever in the long, sorry, sordid, dreary history of conservative politics have conservatives ever had the courage to own up to their own failures.

Posted by: jaxas70 | September 7, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

The secret of politics is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

Posted by: RepJackKimble | September 7, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Leftist whining about the cost of our military defense against global jihadists is childish. The United States was founded on the basis of individual liberty. As a result, the Constitution assigns to the federal government the primary responsibility to “provide for the common defence.” It is entirely reasonable to expend 4 percent of national income in the defense of freedom. Never­theless, the federal government is now allocating a smaller share of national income to defense than the average for the past four decades, despite the ongo­ing war against terrorism. Projected growth in entitlement spending (not defense spending at this level) is at the core of the looming fiscal crisis facing the federal government. Defense expenditures at this level will jeopardize neither the health of the economy nor the prosper­ity of the American people— but a sustained commit­ment to defense is necessary to sustain liberty. Paying 4 percent for freedom is worth the price. Indeed, it is a bargain.

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | September 7, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This chart is meaningless ss anyone at the CBO would admit. The CBO does not take into account economic growth from stimulating the private economy which occurs when you cut taxes.

Posted by: dummypants | September 7, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

We have a budget?

Posted by: jpaul2 | September 7, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

We have a budget?

Posted by: jpaul2 | September 7, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

ChickaBOOMer: Twit Fit

Posted by: StewartIII | September 7, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh, sure, like I'm totally going to trust a guy who thinks some random CA house rep tweeted blah blah blah. Maybe next time some of the 11 Journo-List Palin fact checkers could lend you 13.5 seconds to save you from future humiliations. OMG, you get paid for this?

Agenda much?

Posted by: wizard1961 | September 8, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

"The fy2007 deficit of $161 Billion included the $123 Billion cost of the Iraq War for that year.

It might be well to investigate the facts rather than to call others names!"

Nice comeback. Fakes just that level of necessary outrage while posting a known lie as fact. From Wikipedia:

"Much of the costs of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war until FY2008 have been funded through supplemental appropriations or emergency supplemental appropriations, which are treated differently than regular appropriations bills"

Posted by: njardine | September 8, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

This chart is as ridiculous as the hoax tweet. The so-called stimulus of last year was almost a trillion dollars. Where does that show up in the chart?

And the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan is projected to be the same ten years from now as they were last year? Are you kidding?

And where's Obamacare in all this? Are you going to try to tell us you bought Obama's promise that "it's not going to one dime to the deficit?" Kool-Aid, anybody?

Please tell us you're kidding. Because it's not physically possible to get one's head stuck that far up one's own rear end.

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 8, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

According to the Ukrainian Institute of New Virology 'The Twitterer RepJackKimble cited below is not a real member of Congress' . is a brilliant idea. We develop it.

Posted by: 555ffa | September 8, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

It's one thing for Joe Constituent to not know there isn't a Jack Kimble in the House. Yes, I know there are 435 members. But shouldn't every writer at the Washington Post be at least familiar with the names of almost all members of Congress? Don't you have a handy booklet of all the members?
...Apparently not.

Posted by: JasonM1 | September 8, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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