The Big Lie: The Republican National Convention will feature a debt clock to hold the president accountable for the mounting debt.
The Truth: Republican policies and the economy they created are responsible for the vast majority of the debt and the Romney/Ryan plans would only increase the debt.
One of the most notable decorations at this year’s Republican National Convention is a debt clock that counts the amount of debt that will be racked up from the moment the event opened. It’s supposed to be a visual indictment of the president’s policies – the result of “wasteful government spending.”
But the GOP’s debt clock would be more honest if it were captioned by the RNC’s current slogan: “We Built It!”
Don’t expect any speakers from the podium to address the actual source of the debt. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hopes everybody has forgotten, blustering in his typical style: “It doesn’t matter how we got here.”
Facts are now officially for the other guys. On Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse finally said something that fact checkers will find accurate: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” The Romney campaign’s disregard for facts is warmly embraced by a right wing that has built up a vast alternative media to reinforce their own version of reality.
In this reality, the president’s 2009 budget was the first budget ever to hit a one trillion-dollar deficit, which was entirely the result of the president’s policies. The fact that the president passed a $787 billion stimulus early in his administration made this argument seem to have some validity. But what Republicans ignored was the mounting cost of Bush-era policies and failures.
The facts are undisputed. In 2000, the debt clock in New York City was shut down because it was ticking backwards. A few months later, George W. Bush came into office with a budget in surplus. Facing a mild recession, he promptly blew the surplus with a round of across-the-board tax breaks that was mostly enjoyed by the richest Americans.
Then 9/11 happened. In the midst of two wars, Bush and the Republican-dominated Congress passed another huge tax cut that greatly benefited the investor class and an unfunded expansion of Medicare that shortened the lifespan of the program. Along the way, Bush also exploded government spending on the military and homeland security. In 2008 the financial crisis hit, triggering hundreds of billions of dollars in mandatory spending increases for the millions of Americans who were suddenly out of work.
All this was entirely the result of right-wing policies approved by a right-wing president and a right-wing Congress. You can blame the financial crisis on Bush or simply note that it happened after seven years with him in the White House. But there’s no doubt; the policies were Republican.
As Ezra Klein explains: “ If there’d been no Bush tax cuts, no wars, no financial crisis and everything else had been the same? Debt would be between 20 and 30 percent of GDP today, rather than almost 100 percent.”
Since President Obama took office, he signed the stimulus into law and extended the Bush tax breaks because the GOP held the breaks for the middle class hostage. Along with the extension he was able to get the GOP to agree to a temporary payroll tax reduction twice and an extension of unemployment benefits. Besides, he has reduced the deficit with ObamaCare, as well as a $4 trillion debt deal forged during the debt limit crisis that the GOP now refuses to honor. Altogether, President Obama has grown government at a slower rate than any president in generations.
The President has proposed a plan that would cut the debt to about 70 percent of GDP mostly by ending the Bush tax breaks on the rich and slowing the growth of the military and withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Romney and Ryan’s plans to deal with the debt will actually do little to reduce deficits and the debt. Both propose massive tax breaks for the richest that are supposed to be paid for by eliminating deductions. But once the Tax Policy Center revealed this would require a $2,000 tax increase for the middle class, Romney backed away from a promise to make the cuts deficit-neutral and is simply promising a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. For the middle class, this would be about enough money to fix a dent in a small car. For the richest, their cuts will be enough to buy a small car factory. Romney and Ryan both want to increase the growth of the military and cut government everywhere else, eventually passing on huge health care costs to seniors.
None of that would do much to slow the debt clock. And if they were elected, you can bet they wouldn’t be so quick to implement their cuts, knowing a recession would be inevitable.
It’s nice that the GOP finally found the clock they misplaced in 2001. It would be better if they remembered who got it ticking again.