Through the fog of the debt limit negotiations, President Obama has attempted to shift the blame for America’s deficit crisis to politicians at large, claiming that “neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem.” Though the culture of overspending is endemic in Washington, don’t let the President fool you—some are a lot more guilty than others.
The fact is that Obama’s budget would set America on a dangerous fiscal course that leads to massive deficits well into the future—hitting $1.2 trillion in 2012 and, after dipping slightly, rising back to $1.2 trillion again by 2021.
The chart above illustrates what the country’s fiscal future looks like. As analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, even after the massive tax hikes included in Obama’s budget, federal deficits total $9.5 trillion. In other words, under his budget, the President would more than double the national debt in just 10 years. Simply put, Obama’s budget (which didn’t even win the support of his own party in the United States Senate) would push America over a fiscal cliff.
The President’s media apologists are attempting to carry water for Obama and shift the blame for the budget mess squarely at the feet of President George W. Bush. Specifically, they argue that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the recession are all to blame for today’s deficits. It’s an argument we heard before from Obama since the days of his campaign, and it’s an argument that is as flawed today as it was then. One simple number explains it well: the budget deficit figure in 2007, the last Bush year prior to the recession. The tax cuts were in full effect, both wars were raging, and the recession had not yet struck, yet the budget deficit in 2007 was $160 billion, or about a tenth of Obama’s deficit this year.
Then there’s the President’s stimulus spending binge, which made matters worse. The policy was rooted in the false premise—recited by The New York Times—that government spending can propel the economy out of a recession. Well, it hasn’t. The economy is stuck in slow, and the hundreds of billions of stimulus dollars have only added to today’s debt and deficits.
So much for the past. Looking forward, America’s fiscal woes aren’t due to wars, recessions, or tax cuts. As Brian Riedl explained, the root of America’s fiscal woes is entitlement spending:
Entitlements and other obligations are driving the deficits. Specifically, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and net interest costs are projected to rise by 5.4% of GDP between 2008 and 2020. The Bush tax cuts are a convenient scapegoat for past and future budget woes. But it is the dramatic upward arc of federal spending that is the root of the problem.
To be fair, President Obama did inherit these programs. So, has he proposed remedial action? No, he’s acted to make the entitlement excesses worse by pushing through his Obamacare health care reform, which created a whole new entitlement.
Without a doubt, deficits during the Bush Administration were too high, especially in the early years. More could and should have been done to restrain spending. But, without a doubt, the Bush deficits were puny compared to what Obama and his congressional allies have inflicted. For Obama’s apologists to seek cover in the Bush deficits is shameless. To use these diversions to now take attention away from the real problem to which Obama has added is outrageous.
Entitlements are the real deficit drivers of the future, and as the chart above shows, if taxes stay at their historical norms, then entitlement spending will consume all the revenues by 2052. And that’s the fact the apologists ignore, despite the fact that even in the President’s 2012 budget entitlements account for 58 percent of spending (as you can see in the chart below).
So next time Obama or his allies in the press go back to the well and recite the well-worn verse that spending is all the other guy’s fault, take a look at the facts. President Obama has steered a fiscal course that will lead to more spending and deeper deficits and ultimately to vastly higher taxes. If you want to know the real cause of our deficits today, the answer lies primarily with Obama. If you want to know the real cause of our deficits in the near future, the answer lies in entitlement spending, which Obamacare increases.