Friday, February 20, 2009

The GOP's credibility issue about spending

Does the GOP lack credibility in their spending complaints? There is a good case for that made in the following article by Edward Lotterman:

GOP late to the party in condemning deficit spending
Republicans opposed to the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus bill fretted noisily about 'spending money we don't have' and 'passing a burden on to our grandchildren.'

Their concern for fiscal prudence is laudable, but not credible, given the past 60 years. While Republicans had a deserved reputation for fiscal probity from Lincoln through Nixon, their contempt for balanced budgets since 1981 is at the root of our national debt problems.

In response to questions from readers about the size and history of the national debt, I made some simple tabulations. I took the gross federal debt listed in the 2009 Economic Report of the President, the last one prepared by the George W. Bush administration. To its data for 1940 through 2008, I added the Bureau of Public Debt's estimate of the debt as of Feb. 15.

I then adjusted it for inflation, using the consumer price index. (Using a different, broader index, the GDP deflator, would be slightly better, but it does not go back to 1940.) To make comparisons with current legislation simple, I converted all the figures to December 2008 dollar equivalents. [...]

It's worth reading the whole article. As much as I would like to argue against it, I can't. If the shoe fits... and I'm afraid that it does. I think it's also one of the big reasons that the Republicans were voted out.

So I have to wonder, if many of the Americans who voted Democrat this time, were hoping that we would see more fiscal responsibility, things like a balanced budget, that we had under Bill Clinton? Because if that was their expectation, then they are bound to be disappointed by current fiscal policy.

The thing is, even with Bill Clinton, he only balanced the budget because he had a Republican majority in congress opposing his spending plans. He had to compromise. The Democrat majority we have now is under no such pressure.

The lesson to be found in this graph? I think it's that if we want a balanced budget, we need to have a balanced government too. Maybe we can get one in two years time. Maybe. But how we are going to climb out of the hole that's being created now, I don't know.

Related Links:

Deep Impact: The Federal Deficit

Is Obama compounding Bush's mistakes?

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