In Iowa, the presumptive Republican nominee declared:
“A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation and every day we fail to act we feed that fire with our own lack of resolve. This is not a Democratic or Republican problem. That fire could care less if you have a donkey or an elephant in your front lawn; it’s still coming for your house. There’s plenty of blame to go around for both parties. But in my years leading businesses, an Olympics and a state, I’ve learned one simple principle of leadership that never falters: Leaders lead. I will lead us out of this debt and spending crisis.”
With this ringing series of assertions, Willard proved he is the unquestioned leader in one aspect of campaigning. He lies more often in more ways and more places than any American politician since Aaron Burr.
Take the first assertion about a “prairie fire of debt.” Willard clearly hopes people will have forgotten that Republicans took the presidency at the start of the twenty-first century with a budget surplus. The chart below depicts this inconvenient truth.
Because the federal fiscal year begins on October 1, the first year that can be attributed to the Democratic President, Clinton is 1994. The years 1990 to 1993 are attributable to the Republican President, George H. W. Bush. Fiscal year 2002, is the first year the Republican George W. Bush is responsible for the budget appropriations.
Republicans incorrectly claim that Clinton pushed through in his first year “the largest tax increase in history.” It was not and it fell almost exclusively on upper-income taxpayers. Nonetheless, the fiscal record of the Clinton years shows the effect of this substantial revenue raising measure. Clinton’s fiscal 1994 budget also contained spending restraints, and a powerful influence was the booming economy and huge gains in the stock markets which brought in hundreds of millions in unanticipated tax revenue from taxes on capital gains and rising salaries.
The Social Security tax on payrolls contributed much to the Clinton budget surpluses. Social Security taxes actually now make the total deficit or surplus figures look better than they would if Social Security wasn’t counted. But even if Social Security is removed from the calculation, there was a surplus of $1.9 billion in fiscal 1999 and $86.4 billion in fiscal 2000.
Based on a document called the “The Financial Report of the U. S. Government” the government’s books are presented on an accrual basis like those of most corporations, rather than the cash basis that the government has always used. Under accrual accounting the government would immediately reflect the costs of promises made to pay future benefits to government workers and Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. But even under accrual accounting, the annual reports showed surpluses of $69.2 billion in fiscal 1998, $76.9 billion in fiscal 1999, and $46 billion for fiscal year 2000. So any way we count it or account for it, the federal budget was balanced and the deficit was erased, when the Republicans held the presidency at the start of the current century. Therefore, if there is a debt crisis, the Republican Party and its presidents are the igniters and owners of this putative wild fire.
Willard further contends that out of control federal spending is pouring accelerant on this raging conflagration. Despite his rhetoric, reality paints a starkly different picture.
A dominant theme of the Republican propaganda has been the crushing spending spree the Obama presidency has ostensibly embarked on. This canard ignited by Republicans and their supportive Super Pacs and many prominent commentators has inflamed the national dialogue and shaped the public debate in nearly every major budget battle of the last three years. Now it is burning brightly in the 2012 election campaign.
The truth is President Obama’s policies from the much maligned stimulus onward have produced the slowest increase in federal spending under any president from either party in nearly six decades. Furthermore, the rise in the national debt from $10.6 trillion to $15.6 trillion is overwhelmingly due to the combined effects of revenue losses during the 2008-09 economic downturn as well as Bush tax cuts and automatic increases in safety-net spending that were already written into law before President Obama took office.
The chart, “Is Obama Really A Big Spender” shows that Reagan, both Bushes, and to a lesser extent Clinton, grew federal spending far more rapidly than Obama. Additionally, Obama — unlike his predecessors from both parties — in February 2010 signed a law requiring that new spending laws are paid for. Furthermore, Obama last year signed into law over $2 trillion in debt-reduction over the next decade. Finally, the President Obama put hundreds of billions in cuts to social safety net spending on the table, but Republican intransigence on revenue increases derailed the so called “Grand Bargain.” This again shows the Republican insincerity regarding the alleged imperative to close the budget gap. Despite this duplicity, Republicans have more fables to peddle where federal spending is concerned.
Due to a relentless and successful Republican propaganda campaign, it’s become an article of faith among many conservative citizens, and even some Democrats, that “Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending.” This is simply not true: under President Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the myth of Obama as a big spender is not effectively challenged by anyone in the establishment media when leading Republicans from Mitt Romney to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner assert this false claim. The purportedly liberal media regularly parrots the GOP canards. The fourth estate never seems to get around to telling the citizens the Obama spending spree is a bold faced lie. Yet the truth is evident for all who have eyes to see, it has been Republican presidents who are historically the big spenders.
Not only has President Obama not been a spend thrift; he has flattened the rate of increase. There has been no huge increase in spending under President Obama, despite what Republicans claim and too many media sources uncritically report.
Willard accuses President Obama of lighting a “prairie fire” of spending, but as the preceding chart shows, the President is damping down the flames, not fanning them. Even if the $140 billion in stimulative spending in 2009 is attributed to Obama and not to Bush, spending under President Obama grows by about $200 billion over four years, amounting to a 1.4% annualized increase. “After adjusting for inflation, spending under Obama is falling at a 1.4% annual pace — the first decline in real spending since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was retreating from the quagmire in Vietnam.”
One final graphic comparison of the actual and projected expenditures of the last Republican president and the current Democratic president solidifies who is the real spending fire bug.
“Based on the figures from the above chart, Bush spent $5.07 trillion on new expenditures from fiscal years 2002-2009. Obama will have spent only $1.44 trillion through 2017, including saving $126 billion through spending cuts.” Therefore, the Republican outspends the Democrat by more than 300%!
Despite all the falsehoods riddling Romney’s speeches and Republican propaganda concerning spending, deficits, and debts under President Obama, Willard has one more whopper he is spewing on a regular basis. This is the declaration: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending crisis.” Despite the confidence with which Willard makes this assertion, probabilities indicate he is simply blowing smoke.
Consider that his economic plan makes the debt worse. Willard promises to give a 20% across-the-board tax cut to all Americans and repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax. This costs $10.7 trillion over the next ten years and reduces federal revenues to 15% of GDP. According to Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden, Willard offers no plan to pay for those tax cuts; instead he simply asserts “he will balance the budget.”
However, balancing the budget under the terms of Romney’s plan would be next to impossible. Even if Willard limits tax deductions for the richest Americans as he proposes, it would require “6.5% economic growth for the next five years to keep his plan from adding to the deficit.” For perspective, recall in the best five-year period of growth since World War II, the economy grew at 5.8 percent per year. In plain language, the economic growth Willard’s plan requires has never happened in the last seven decades of United States history!
The great American humorist, Will Rogers, made an observation that is no less true today than when he uttered it more than 75 years ago:
“It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble. It’s what we know that just ain’t so.”
For their own sake and that of the nation and their children, voters in 2012 must face the truth about the spending, deficit and debt propaganda. They must recognize that Republicans are seeking to get them to know things “that just ain’t so.” Then they must vote for the party and the president which has truly done the responsible thing regarding spending, deficits and debt. America does not face a choice between President and the Almighty. America faces a choice between President Obama and the alternative – a much less caring, capable, and candid alternative – at that.