Vail Valley Voices: Spending hits overdrive with Dems
The phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics” references the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions.
Meanwhile, there’s another famous quote seemingly at odds with the aforementioned extract: “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – John Adams, second president of the United States.
Vis-a-vis the above, the data used in this commentary comes from the Congressional Budget Office, the agency that provides Congress with nonpartisan analyses for economic and budget decisions and with the estimates required for the congressional budget process.
In 2000, when the Republicans gained control of the presidency and Congress, they inherited a $127 billion budget surplus, along with a $5.7 trillion national debt. During the next six years, George W. Bush and a Republican Congress reversed that budget surplus and turned it into a $162 billion deficit (a negative swing of $289 billion), while adding $2.7 trillion to our national debt, increasing it to $8.4 trillion during the last year the Republicans controlled Congress.
Then in 2006, the Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, took control of both houses of Congress and proceeded to increase the $162 billion Republican deficit to $455 billion (a $293 billion negative swing) and the $8.4 trillion national debt to $9.9 trillion.
As we can see, it took a Republican president and Republican Congress six years to negatively impact the deficit by $289 billion and increase the national debt from 58 percent to 65 percent of GDP. It then took a Republican president and a Democratic Congress just two more years to further erode the deficit another $293 billion and increase the national debt to 70 percent of GDP – hardly a sterling record for either party.
However, the deficit-debt picture deteriorated even further after the sweeping Democratic electoral victory of 2008 that gave Barack Obama the Oval Office and the Democrats even greater control of Congress. Since then, the deficit has grown from $455 billion to $1.35 trillion, while the national debt has soared from $9.9 trillion to $13.4 trillion and is now 94 percent of GDP.
Call these lies, damned lies or biased statistics, but the facts of the matter are proving to be very stubborn things. The Republicans were certainly excessive spenders, but as the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers evince, the Democrats have been absolutely profligate, bordering on reckless, since assuming control of Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008.
Amid all of this, one very important question remains unanswered: With a tanking economy, a worldwide financial meltdown and 8 percent unemployment back in 2008, why did President Obama focus his and his Democratic Congress’ energies on health care rather than using the power of his office to create private-sector jobs, reform entitlements and begin reducing the deficit?
Trying to divine someone’s motivation is speculative at best, but as noted above, facts are stubborn things, and predicated upon Mr. Obama’s actions, his priority upon taking office was clear – pass health care whatever the costs. Meanwhile, many historians agree with that notion and infer that the president’s rationale for putting health care above jobs, the economy and the deficit was to create an Obama legacy. You can draw your own conclusions.
That said, a number of positive outcomes have occurred during Obama’s first two years in office. He continued to follow the Bush timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. He rid the military of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” passed the START Treaty and did not increase tax rates, even though he promised during his campaign to raise tax rates for the rich and small businesses.
However, he failed to close Gitmo, he established and then re-established the “deadline” for withdrawal from Afghanistan and watched unemployment grow by 20 percent, the national debt increase by 24 percent and the deficit balloon by 289 percent. With the shellacking he took in the November elections as a backdrop, the president now promises to make jobs and the economy his top priorities in 2011. And there’s little doubt that he’s serious. After all, it’s highly doubtful he could win re-election if the deficit and debt continue to grow exponentially and unemployment remains near 10 percent in 2012.
So now it’s up to the newly elected Republican House of Representatives to roll back many of the job-killing regulations that could not be legislated by the 111th Congress and hold top agency officials accountable for their spending while working with the president and the Democratic Senate to find solutions to our most vexing problems.
I’ve long believed the maxim that “government is best which governs least.” I hope the 112th Congress of the United States will heed the message the voters sent last November: Create jobs, regain fiscal sanity, and begin the repeal-defunding of Obamacare.
Quote of the Day: “History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.” – Thomas Jefferson.
Butch Mazzuca lives in Edwards.