There is a terrific bit of ordinary, factual reporting in BUSINESSWEEK that shows conclusively that the grand "debate" in DC over the national debt has very little to do with facts. The information in the article should be a screaming set of headlines in major newspapers and the lead story on the network evening news programs. For example, here's some news: the total cost of the Bush TARP program (Wall Street bailouts), aside from one housing program, was just over 3 billion dollars, which is, to the Federal government, chump change.
Here is part of what is driving public anger about the deficit: 1. The government spent all this money on helping Wall Street and the car companies. 2. The stimulus spending under Obama and, 3. The false conclusion that this created a massive national debt. People saw the country in trouble and Washington reacting by spending money to help billionaires. It didn’t make much sense (in the common understanding) and it fueled enormous anger.
The Republicans are stoking these false beliefs for their own political gain. The Democrats just want to survive this trial by fire and get back to the old days of spending without much caring how the bills get paid. The article in BusinessWeek shows, however, that the Republicans are deeply concerned about spending...when they are not in power. When they have a president in the White House, the faucet is open, full blast.
Here are the basic conclusions from this article and other research in regard to the national debt.
1. The unfunded wars under Bush, along with the prescription drug benefit passed during his presidency, added tremendously to deficit spending. While both Republicans and Democrats supported these wars, the driving force was the Republican president.
2. Medicare is a huge drain on Federal revenues, even while it remains very popular and largely successful. The biggest problem with Medicare, however, is that there is no upper limit on what can be spent on health care for the elderly. As a result, hospitals and doctors use it as a kind of ready, always available back-up source of funding.
3. Boehner’s comment in his speech Monday (7.25.11) that the Obama stimulus spending was “the largest in American history” is misleading. Because of inflation, every major spending program and every major tax change is “the largest in American history”, while it might also be small in comparison to the overall budget or, with inflation accounted for, programs in the past. This kind of misleading statement is standard political practice as a way for politicians to mislead the public about the impact of spending.
4. The oldest of the much maligned boomers has not reached full retirement age under Social Security (they will start turning 66 next year, while some are collecting lower payments sooner). Therefore, it is incorrect to base current deficits on these retirements, which are still to come.
5. The main point of pain in current revenues versus expenditures has been created by the Great Recession. John Boehner himself acknowledged this fact in a comment to reporters in 2010. When the recession fully ends, some of this pain will be gone, but some will remain because the economy is not likely to return to the debt inspired levels of pre-2007. Republicans are trying to leverage the problems of the recession to get things they have wanted for decades, like cutting back Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
6. Neither political party in America represents true fiscal conservative beliefs. Both parties have their pet programs and both were prepared to spend freely when the occasion arose. Republicans have talked of controlling spending since at least the 1950s, in part because this appeals to their base in the mid-western states, but when they have been in power they do almost nothing about it, other than to attack programs favored by Democrats.
Doug Terry 7.25.11
Go to the BUSINESSWEEK article and read for yourself.
These conclusions above are those of The TerryReport, some of which are supported by figures in the BusinessWeek story, some of which represent TerryReport background research and analysis.
What all of this says is that we, as citizens, should never rely on people who style themselves as political leaders to both bring facts to us and show us the conclusions. Most people know what they want to believe and pick politicians who seem to support their views. We are now seeing the disastrous results of that sort of decision making by voters.