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Where were your tea partiers two years ago?

David Leonhardt attempts to be even-handed by assigning blame to both Democrats and Republicans in his NYT story diagnosing how America’s budget surplus became a huge deficit. And it’s true: Dems haven’t exactly turned their backs on debt since they came to power. But by Leonhardt’s own account, most of the blame belongs to … the very same Republicans who now are weeping and tearing their clothes over fiscal irresponsibility:

The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

Leonhardt crunches the numbers and assigns the blame like this: 37 percent of the shortfall is attributable to the 2001 and current recessions. Another 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill, and another 3 percent from President Obama’s new programs.

But 53 percent comes from policies initiated by the Bush Administration itself. Some of the costly spending has been extended by Obama, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that it originated with Republicans.

There’s lots of reasons to be alarmed about the country’s growing indebtedness, and a lot of people who genuinely are concerned about the issue. But Republicans have been working furiously to reclaim the brand of the “fiscally responsible” party ever since Obama took office. Recent history proves such claims to be, well, a lie. Democrats are deficit spenders, yes, but they’re not uniquely awful in that regard.

And the thing is: We didn’t need Leonhardt to prove that to us. We already knew it.

A couple of months ago I earned some ire from my conservative friends when I suggested “the tea parties were one of the biggest displays of sore loserdom seen in recent U.S. history.” I have to stand by that assertion: The government was already spending away our children’s future before Obama came to office; the tea partiers only decided to gather in the streets afterward. It’s easy enough to draw conclusions.

  1. Ben Boychuk Says: Jun 10 1:16 PM

    I disagree. Reply posted here: http://blog.infinitemonkeysblog.com/?q=node/6450#comment-19398

    (The Captcha phrase for this comment, by the way, was “eligible puking.” For what it’s worth.)

  2. Monkey RobbL Says: Jun 16 7:50 PM

    I also have an objection posted at Infinite Monkeys: http://infinitemonkeysblog.com/?q=node/6450#comment-19470

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