An Unusually Bad Prevaricator, Unusually Bad

February 1, 2010

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey famously said that Bill Clinton was “an unusually good liar. Unusually good.” Well, then, President Barack Obama is an unusually bad liar. Unusually bad.

Obama said in his State of the Union speech (and similar statements several times since): “By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.”

Though it’s true that the deficit for President George W. Bush’s final year in office was close to $1.3 trillion, it must be noted that Obama and his fellow Democratic-controlled Congress members approved the TARP bailouts and are largely responsible for the other budget expenditures leading to that record deficit.

Plus, The Heritage Foundation’s blog, “The Foundry,” says that Obama’s claims concerning the causes for that deficit are “clearly misleading.” Despite those factors, “the budget deficit still stood at just $162 billion when the recession began in late 2007. The larger subsequent deficits have been driven by the recession (which Obama did acknowledge), the financial bailouts, the President’s stimulus bill, and large discretionary spending hikes enacted by a Democratic Congress.”

Also, there is major disagreement over Obama’s assertion that Bush’s projected deficits over the next 10 years were $8 trillion. But even if you let Obama slide on that claim, the more relevant comparison, as pointed out by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, is the annual average deficit for the 12 years that Republicans most recently controlled Congress — $104 billion — versus that of the past three years under the Democratic-controlled Congress — $1.1 trillion.

Indeed, before the financial meltdown — which was mostly caused by liberal mortgaging and housing policies — Bush’s deficits had been significantly reduced, even cut in half before he predicted they would be. In addition, Bill Clinton would never have been able to co-opt credit for those deficits or “his” surplus if not for the Republican Revolution and Contract with America.

Granted, a major portion of the high deficits under the Democratic Congress can be attributed to TARP, which the Bush administration proposed (and Democrats approved). But that was — to borrow a Dick Cheney phrase — a one-off event. Neither Bush nor his would-be successor John McCain had any intention of repeating TARP (which I’m not defending), and their goal was that the TARP monies be repaid — and much of them reportedly have been. Republicans had no plans to impose an $800 billion “stimulus” package.

When Obama took office, he used that extraordinary, one-off deficit of $1.3 trillion as the new base line from which all future deficits would be measured, and he planned to treat any future annual deficit less than $1.3 trillion as a triumphant reduction. This isn’t even sophisticated deception, but some people are still apparently buying it.

Obama, then, has used the extraordinary budget year as an excuse to spend even more wastefully — with trillion-dollar-plus budgets in perpetuity — and then disguise his profligacy with duplicitous rhetoric and such illusory policies as his anemic fractional discretionary spending freeze.

It’s incredibly childish for Obama to blame his reckless spending on Bush, but have you considered how preposterous it also is? It is substantively untrue: Bush’s extraordinary deficit year doesn’t require Obama to continue on that path, converting a one-off event into a permanent, unsustainable affair. But more importantly, the issue is not who should be blamed for spending too much in the past, whether Bush or Obama. It’s what we plan to do going forward to stop this hemorrhaging that will — not might, but will — destroy this nation if not turned around ASAP.

Even if Obama’s misleading depiction were true — that Bush, er, I mean Obama and the Democratic Congress, bequeathed him with annual $1 trillion deficits — that would still not justify his intention to give us more of the same. Falsely blaming it on Bush — or even accurately blaming it on Bush, if that were justified — wouldn’t add one dollar to retire the exploding federal deficit.

Bush has no control over what Obama is doing now. He is not making Obama implement bankrupting “stimulus” packages and soaring expenditures across the board (excluding the paltry, dishonest 17 percent discretionary spending freeze delayed until 2011).

It’s as if your wife controlled your household finances the year before and ran up enormous debt, threatening your family’s solvency, and when you took over the following year, you said: “Well, I’m going to spend more than she did even though it’s my money, too, because she did it, so I can, too. We’ll go bankrupt, but it will only be partially my fault.”

Too bad we have to wait until 2012 to get a divorce.