Face the Nation's John Dickerson doesn't challenge Maya McGuineas misleading claim about the country's fiscal health in a show completely devoid of liberal or even centrist input.
November 20, 2016

Evidently the press no longer cares about presenting either a fair or unbiased view of the news, if today's Face The Nation show is any indication.

The show's host, John Dickerson, formed a panel of conservatives ranging from Grover Norquist to The Atlantic's David Frum. Included in the panel was Maya McGuineas, of the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget. The CRFB bills itself as a "bipartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact." We discover in Source Watch that the committee has also had dubious associations with industries and individuals in the past that should give one pause before accepting the organization's partisan claims, or lack thereof, at face value.

In today's panel, CRFB's McGuineas made the claim that Trump is inheriting "the worst fiscal situation of any President as judged by the debt relative to the economy other than President Truman when he walks into office". It was interesting listening to McGuineas' voice drop in volume when she inserted the aside of "debt relative to the economy" to explain her claim. We can already see the tweets of "Trump is inheriting the worst fiscal situation since Truman!"

We have to assume that what McGuineas meant was the debt-to-GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, ratio, although that may be overly generous. Nevertheless, this is a favorite measure of fiscal conservatives to portray debt as a measure of the United States falling into a quick and sudden doom where bread will cost $400.00 a loaf and the streets are lined with junk bonds.

It's also a favorite way of generating interest in decimating essential programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act, but without mentioning that tax cuts combined with bloated defense spending are also significant contributors to the overall debt.

First of all, fiscally, the United States is healthy. At this time, we're not heading into a recession and our unemployment is at 4.9%. We do face challenges, such as fewer adults working, the long-term unemployed, stagnant wage growth, and yes, even that high debt-to-GDP ratio. But overall, compared to the end of 2008, when Barack Obama came into office with the nation on the brink of a second Great Depression, we're at a good place, fiscally.

About that debt-to-GDP ratio, if Face the Nation's Dickerson had a balanced panel, with members who are not focused solely on the national debt and cutting entitlement programs, McGuineas' claim may have received the necessary push back and clarification it desperately needed.

Clarification, like that from Ian Tarr, in the Brown Political Review. He lays out a refutation of the debt-to-GDP doomsayers that seems tailor-made for McGuineas. He closed his writing with the perfect response:

There is a level on which austerity appears sensible for the United States. However, it is a level fraught with intuition, misdirection, and misunderstandings. Rationales for rolling back spending come with the sheen of responsibility. They seduce both lay people and economists. They feed hyper partisanship and help politicians posture. While these approaches are persuasive, their logic is flawed. It is public policy malpractice to see dangers where there are none —doing so raises the risk that the United States flees toward even greater fiscal and economic hazards. So the next time some politician, polemicist, or Average Joe rails against the big spenders in Washington, do not be seduced. Anti-spending crusaders are touting a solution in search of a problem.

If only Tarr was on today's Face the Nation show to provide clarification and balance.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.