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Blaming Bush versus blaming Obama: A few numbers to consider

Yes, it’s true – sad, but true. In his address to the nation on Monday, Pres. Obama did start out by blaming his predecessor’s fiscal mismanagement (cut taxes, raise spending) and the recession that he also inherited from his predecessor for the large and rapidly growing national debt that he inherited from his predecessor (did I mention that it was former Pres. George W. Bush).

This is of course the cue for Repubs to blame Obama for blaming Bush. I mentioned in my morning after piece that Sean Hannity began his parody of Obama’s speech with “Blame Bush. Blame Bush.” Here’s an example of Mitch McConnell, on the Senate floor, describing how much more of the recent run-up of deficit and debt is the fault of Obama compared to Bush.

These are mere talking points of course. Obama should accept the political responsibility that he deserves for the current predicament. He did say, on Monday night:

 “Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it.” 

I agree. And I am struck by how seldom I ever hear a Republican or a supply sider taking any responsibility at all. But maybe I missed those occasions.

Anyway, just to call your attention to one recent effort to shed some factual/statistical light on the issue, the New York Times recently published this graphic, which takes a different approach.

Asking which president was in office when this or that dollar was added to the debt (which just repeats the problem that each president is dealing with the economy he inherited), the Times asked which new policies of the recent presidents have added to the debt.

The Bush policies that added to the debt include:

two wars and a defense buildup ($1.5 Trillion), several rounds of tax cuts, ($1.8 T), TARP and other bailouts plus the 2008 stimulus programs, the Medicare Part D drug benefit, and a mere $608 billion in other new spending within the non-defense discretionary category.

On Obama’s tab (and it’s only fair to mention that Bush served eight years and Obama has only served two and a half, but it’s necessary to also point out that the Times numbers are a projection through 2017, which means they would be over an equivalent eight-year period) are the following:

Stimulus spending plus stimulus tax cuts ($1.1 trillion), the big health care bill (which will of course be in the rollout stages for most of Obama’s tenure) ($152 billion) and another $278 billion in the non-defense discretionary category. The Times also gave Obama credit for savings of $126 billion in military spending cuts. (Bush didn’t get credit for cutting anything.)

The totals:

  • Cost of new policies of Pres. Bush over eight years: $5.07 trillion.
  • Cost of new policies of Pres. Obama projected over eight years: $1.44 trillion.

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Comments (13)

You liberals and "evidence" based analysis.

Otherwise known as facts.

Karl Rove: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Thanks, Eric, and a hearty second to "the Pauls" (#1 & #2) and Neal (#3).

I fear a careful study of what happened during Mr. Rove's tenure will show little to admire, and much to be disgusted by.

The New York Times Chart cited in your story walks all over their claim: "All the news that's fit print".

When President Obama went to West Point to announce his decision to expand the ground war in Afgahanistan by introducing over 100,000 new ground troops he was deciding to spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars. The reality is that the U.S. has incurred the largest number of soldiers killed in action, and record casualties on the ground, in this decade long war since Obama's decision to expand ground operations,which he says will continue through 2014.

Follow the Money, is an old and good rule of journalism. Creating a chart that fails to follow dollars over time, when they were actually spent, creates a false picture of reality "on the ground", where our soliders are risking their lives daily.

This NYT's Chart appears to be a product Orwellan fiction, rather than journalistic enterprise.

Shortly after President Obama took office, he met and chatted with Dick Cheney one day, after which he said that Cheney actually seemed to "make sense."

Maybe clearing all the Wall Street guys out of his cabinet and all the Bush/Cheney holdovers out of any advisory or administrative positions would help Mr. Obama see the futility of endless war and Empire-building that could bring down our country. (He should never have read the book about Lincoln's "Cabinet of Enemies.")

Only the realistic and pragmatic Progressive Caucus urges the end to our wars against terror that actually increase terror, but it seems they are "extremists" and not to be taken seriously. It is our loss.

Interviewed by MSNBC's Ed Schultz on Wednesday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a cosponsor of Glass-Steagall legislation presently before the House of Representatives, raised the issue of the Constitutional authority and responsibility of the United States as a sovereign nation to issue credit to invest in its own people:

"I carry the Constitution with me. I want to tell you something. We shouldn't have to get to that [using the 14th Amendment to lift the debt ceiling]. But Congress ought to familiarize itself with Article One, Section Eight, which says the Congress has the power to borrow money, sure, but it also has the power to coin money, to make money.

"We gave that power over to the Federal Reserve back in 1913. It's time that we understood we don't have to go to banks to get money. The United States is a sovereign government. According to our Constitution, we should be able to invest in our own people, create the jobs.

"We shouldn't have to rely on banks. We cannot be at the mercy of banks in this country. That's not a democracy. I think that it's time the Congress studied that provision of the Constitution as well."

Greg Copeland has a point, but I'll stretch it farther.

Even more important than how much money you spend is how you spend it. It could be argued that Obama spends money - and sacrifices human lives - in Afghanistan better than Bush did, even though he loses more of both, because you can't win a war by dropping bombs out of the clouds; you have to have "boots on the ground." (I say this as someone who acquiesced to war in Afghanistan early on, even though I now favor a withdrawal with all deliberate speed.) It may be that Obama's boots on the ground got us Osama Bin Laden, whereas Cheney and Bush's strategy of "war on the cheap" would not have achieved this for many more years.

Similarly, we have to look not only at how much money Bush spent or saved, but at what we got in return. The defining feature of Bush's second term was the catastrophic bank failure and housing collapse of 2008. Of course, we shouldn't blame Bush alone for this disaster. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, was happy to continue the bank deregulation that Reagan had promoted in his inimitable starry-eyed way.

I agree with Bernice Vetsch and would like to add that there's one big detail that Obama seems to have left out of his otherwise careful study of Lincoln, the "great compromiser": the Civil War. There was a point at which the South simply refused to compromise any more on slavery, so the war that Lincoln tried to avoid simply had to be fought and won. So for most of his presidency, Lincoln was not, in fact, a man of compromise, but a man of war. Even after the war was concluded victoriously for the Union, Lincoln had little opportunity for compromise, because he was soon assassinated - by another uncompromising Southerner. (The Radical Republicans of Congress were the ones who finally gave us the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, each of which was ratified after Lincoln's untimely death.) So I have to say that to regard Lincoln as a "great compromiser who succeeded by reaching out to his enemies," while it may accurately reflect the character of the man, glosses over some important facts, particularly about those enemies.

I'm laughing so hard I can hardly ttype. Why? I'm remembering a few short years ago when Hannity and every other wingnut with a microphone were blaming Clinton for everything. Hey, isn't he to blame for this current mess as well? After all, he did leave Bush with that tempting surplus...

BTW, #5, are you talking about that misbegotten war in Afghanistan that Bush started; then abandoned to start another one in Iraq; then went back to and committed the US to nation building in direct contradiction to his own campaign statements; then slithered out of office leaving the mess for President Obama to clean up? Is that the war you're talking about? And what, pray, is your solution?

Perhaps you missed it in the article, but both wars were accounted for in the Bush ledger, where they belong. Short of simply up and walking away, when a president inherits a war he has to wage it one way or another, and that costs money and lives, resources that would not now be at risk had Bush not been so obsessed with being a wartime president in the first place.

Thank you Will. I couldn't have said it better myself.

High praise, considering the source. TY.

So we needed to raise the debt ceiling why? President Obama is slashing spending right and left but the country still needs more money. Sure the Bush tax cuts were continued by President Obama, but they are not a NEW policy and therefore don't count. The surge in Afghanistan, while costing billions, is not a NEW policy (a continuation I guess) and also doesn't count. The 2008 TARP policy was instituted by President Bush after consulting President-to-be Obama so it doesn't count as a NEW policy. If the new healthcare bill only costs $152 billion (I think even the CBO says a trillion) I'll vote for Obama for a third term (he canissue an executive order allowing another term since the first 8 years of his were controlled by President Bush.

Greg (#5) the fact that you disagree as to which side of the ledger the extra Afghanistan spending goes on does not make the chart Orwellian. You can shift that number over if you like, but you will still find that the vast majority of the money still falls on the Bush side of the ledger.