Since the Obama administration came into office, Republicans have been hypocritically trying to pin it with responsibility for long-term budget deficits, despite the fact that it was the GOP that turned a surplus into record deficits while setting the economy up for a crash (necessitating deficit spending as a response).
But writing on The Hill’s Congress Blog, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) took this to a new level, claiming that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e. the economic stimulus package) is somehow responsible for our long-term deficits:
The deficits created by the stimulus are not only unsustainable in the long-term, but have grown so large they threaten economic stability today. As the big-government approach has predictably let Americans down, it’s time for a new approach. That’s why, working with my Republican colleagues, I have introduced a pair of measures that would pull the plug on the ill-fated stimulus.
Economic stimulus is, by definition, short-term, so Price’s notion really makes no sense. But if Price is honestly interested in where the long-term deficits come from, he should take a look at this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). CBPP wrote that “some commentators blame recent legislation — the stimulus bill and the financial rescues — for today’s record deficits. But those costs pale next to other policies enacted since 2001 that have swollen the deficit,” including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush tax cuts (which are the largest culprit). Here’s a nice chart that CBPP prepared:
Notice how little of the 2012-2019 deficits are due to the stimulus. Price wasn’t around to vote on the Bush tax cuts or the wars, but would he have exhibited such concern about deficits then?
And since we’re on the subject, the stimulus isn’t even primarily responsible for this year’s increase in spending. As Michael Linden pointed out, only 18 percent of the spending increase from 2008 to 2009 is due to the stimulus. The rest is mostly TARP, the rescues of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and increased spending on unemployment benefits and entitlements. Again, the report comes complete with a handy chart (at right).
As Steve Benen wrote, “this isn’t just about pointing fingers for self-satisfaction or partisan vanity. It’s important for the public to realize who’s responsible, in large part because it’s important for the public to weigh policymakers’ credibility. If GOP lawmakers embraced policies that are almost entirely responsible for the deficit those same lawmakers are now complaining about, it’s a relevant detail.” And maybe The Hill should start fact-checking these pieces before publishing them.