Bill Maher had Carol Roth on his show, yet another of the long line of conservatives calling themselves “independents,” talking deficit reduction we somehow never heard when Bush was in office. One of her points was about how Obama has raised the debt by “6 trillion dollars over the last four and a half years,” and despair that we have to raise the debt ceiling at all.
First of all, the $6 trillion number only comes from adding the full spending for 2009—which was George W. Bush’s budget, not Obama’s. And what Obama did spend over that was expressly to deal with the massive economic catastrophe Obama inherited on day one.
That’s a favorite ruse conservatives love to play: conflate the tail end of Bush with Obama’s own record, as in “Obama gave us a $1.4 trillion deficit,” or “Obama drove the unemployment rate up to 10%.”
A less contrived total deficit would be $4.7 trillion over five years. So, where did that come from? Did Obama just say, hey, let’s generate $4.7 trillion dollars in spending that wasn’t there before?
Of course not. Almost all of the debt under Obama has been from the money that, again, George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress committed us to. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And then there was the damage caused by the fiscal cataclysm Bush handed Obama in early 2009.
The fact is, Obama has done almost nothing but cut the deficit since he came into office:
But that’s not good enough for Roth; she was appalled that Obama’s spending was still raising the debt ceiling at all: “[The debt ceiling is] going up because the government overspends, because they refuse to balance the budget…. If they didn’t overspend, we wouldn’t be hitting the debt ceiling.”
So, what was Obama supposed to do, cut $1.4 trillion dollars in one year? To wipe that out in even five years would require raising revenue and/or cutting the budget by $282 billion per year, every year. Something unprecedented, save possibly for coming off of wartime spending at the end of WWII.
When Bush was in office, most of that time being when Republicans also controlled both houses of Congress, deficit spending went up more often than it came down (up 5 years, down three years). When it went up the first two years of Bush’s budgets, it went up by huge amounts: $286 billion and $220 billion.
The three years the deficit went down under Bush, it went down by $94, $70, and $87 billion dollars, an average of $84 billion a year—something conservatives at the time hailed as little short of genius. Under Bush overall, the deficit increased $192 billion a year—and we did not hear conservatives complaining even a tenth as much as they do now.
Under Obama, the deficit has fallen an average of $110 billion per year.
Even under Bill Clinton, while he was creating a surplus, it went down only $70 billion a year.
So, what exactly do conservatives expect from Obama, when they themselves are entirely mute on where this money should be cut? Of course, we know where they want to cut it: Social Security and Medicare, the exact programs they claim they want to “save.”
We know where Republicans do not want to cut it: from the military, where almost all of the waste and overspending exists. In fact, they want to increase our ludicrously high military spending. They not only want to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, they want to start a new war in Iran—and wanted to invade Syria, at least until Obama said he’d take action there.
And we know where Republicans do not want to raise revenue: from millionaires and billionaires, and from corporations making tens of billions in profit every year with many of them paying no taxes at all on those profits.
So when a conservative whines about how Obama is spending us into oblivion? I would suggest trying to speak facts to them, but they would almost certainly not listen, and would instead probably spout the same utter bullshit like Roth was on Maher’s show.