As someone who is fairly fiscally conservative this has not been a good time. I spent the last several years criticizing the Bush administration for running up deficits and corporate welfare only to see similar policies from Obama. Of course in Obama’s case I understand that this is a response to an unusual financial crisis, rather than a reflection of his underlying policy goals. Many conservatives have developed a unique amnesia, seeing everything as coming from Obama. David Leonhardt puts this into perspective:
The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.
You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.
It is well worth reading through the specifics. For those who prefer a quick visual summary, Matthew Yglesias has produced a handy chart to show where to place the blame:
— “The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing.”
— Second, Bush-era legislation “like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, [that] not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.”
— Third, “Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 [...] 20 percent of the swing.”
— Fourth, “About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February.”
— Fifth, “only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.”
I remain an agnostic as to whether Obama’s economic policies will work, preferring to see the facts over time as opposed to falling into ideological certaintude, but I certainly do not buy the attacks from the right that Obama is responsible for bankrupting the country.