The Republican Debt Orgy In Pictures

(Click here for larger image.) "In Washington more spending and more debt is business as usual," House Speaker John Boehner declared on Monday before warning, "I've got news for Washington - those days are over." The days, Boehner should

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(Click here for larger image.)

"In Washington more spending and more debt is business as usual," House Speaker John Boehner declared on Monday before warning, "I've got news for Washington - those days are over." The days, Boehner should have explained, before Barack Obama took the oath of office. As Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) rightly pointed on the Senate floor last year, "We would have none of this if it hadn't been for the Republican debt orgy that they went through." Which is exactly right. As a few handy charts show, Republican presidents and the current GOP leadership in Congress presided over that debt debauchery. And now they demand Democrats clean up their mess.

In case Americans had forgotten that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt and George W. Bush doubled it, the New York Times presented the helpful reminder above.

For their part, Republicans want to pretend history began on January 20, 2009. While Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling claimed Friday that for Republicans raising the debt ceiling is "contrary to our DNA," House Minority Leader Eric Cantor protested two weeks ago, "I don't think the White House understands is how difficult it is for fiscal conservatives to say they're going to vote for a debt ceiling increase."

As McClatchy showed, Republicans are as bad at genetics and history as they are at economics:

Leave aside for the moment that small government icon Ronald Reagan signed 17 debt ceiling increases into law. (That might explain why the Gipper repeatedly demanded Congress boost his borrowing authority and called the oceans of red ink he bequeathed to America his greatest regret.) As it turns out, Republican majorities voted seven times to raise the debt ceiling under President Bush and the current GOP leadership team voted a combined 19 times to bump the debt limit $4 trillion during his tenure. (That vote tally included a "clean" debt ceiling increase in 2004, backed by 98 current House Republicans and 31 sitting GOP Senators.)

Of course, they had to. After all, the two unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the budget-busting Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 (the first war-time tax cut in modern U.S. history) and the Medicare prescription drug program drained the U.S. Treasury. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor voted for all of it.

Again, in words and pictures, the New York Times tells the tale:

As the Washington Post summed up the CBO's conclusions regarding the causes of the nation's mounting debt earlier this year, "The biggest culprit, by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts." The analysis by the Times echoed that finding:

With President Obama and Republican leaders calling for cutting the budget by trillions over the next 10 years, it is worth asking how we got here -- from healthy surpluses at the end of the Clinton era, and the promise of future surpluses, to nine straight years of deficits, including the $1.3 trillion shortfall in 2010. The answer is largely the Bush-era tax cuts, war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recessions.

But as Ezra Klein explained in the Washington Post, the revealing Times chart doesn't tell the full story of the impact of Bush-era policies on future debt facing Barack Obama:

What's also important, but not evident, on this chart is that Obama's major expenses were temporary -- the stimulus is over now -- while Bush's were, effectively, recurring. The Bush tax cuts didn't just lower revenue for 10 years. It's clear now that they lowered it indefinitely, which means this chart is understating their true cost. Similarly, the Medicare drug benefit is costing money on perpetuity, not just for two or three years. And Boehner, Ryan and others voted for these laws and, in some cases, helped to craft and pass them.

These two graphs from the Washington Post and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities make that point crystal clear. Analyses by CBPP showed that the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure, and if made permanent, over the next decade would cost the U.S. Treasury more than Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, TARP and the stimulus - combined.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch was telling the truth when he described Republican fiscal mismanagement during the Bush years by acknowledging, "It was standard practice not to pay for things."

As Paul Krugman documented, the jump in federal spending as a percentage of GDP under President Obama is almost completely explained by the contraction of the economy and the stimulus programs now ending. (Republicans always take great to care to avoid mentioning that the total federal tax burden as a percentage of the U.S. economy is at its lowest level in 60 years even as income inequality is at its highest in 80.) As Krugman summed it up:

Now, pointing out the Obama spending binge is a myth generally produces rage: people know that it happened, because Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street Journal say so. But that doesn't make it true.

Put another way, when it comes to the American balance sheet, Republicans broke it. Now, they claim, Democrats own it.

(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)

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