OK, This Is The Most Absurd Defense I Have Seen of Obama, At Least This Week

Via Kevin Drum

Dave Weigel notes a conundrum today: according to a new poll, 54 percent of the public disapproves of Barack Obama's handling of the deficit. And yet, as the chart on the right shows, the deficit is shrinking dramatically. Last year it dropped by $200 billion, and this year, thanks to a recovering economy, lower spending from the sequester, and the increased taxes in the fiscal cliff deal, it's projected to fall another $450 billion.

Weigel notes that this has deprived conservative yakkers of one of their favorite applause lines: "You don't hear Republicans lulz-ing at Obama for failing to 'cut the deficit in half in my first four years,' because he basically did this, albeit in four and a half." That's true. It's also true that contrary to Republican orthodoxy, it turns out that raising taxes on the rich does bring in higher revenues and therefore reduces the deficit.

The logic here is that Obama has been diligent about cutting the deficit, so therefore Republicans are wrong to try to use the debt ceiling and continuing resolution as a vehicle for forcing more cuts.

It is just possible that a person from another planet landing today might buy this story, but how can anyone who has lived through the last 5 years read this without laughing their butts off?  Every one of Obama's budgets have been dead on arrival, even within his own party, because they have raised spending to such stupid levels.  There has not been even a hint of fiscal responsibility in them.  And the Democratic Senate has passed one budget in something like five years**.

The only fiscal discipline at all has come from the Republican House, and they have only had success in keeping these deficit down by ... using continuing resolutions and debt ceilings as bargaining chips.  This is the President that treated the almost insignificant sequester as if it were the end of the world, and now these sycophants from team Donkey are giving Obama the credit for the deficit reduction?

PS-  This is not an advocacy for Republicans as much as for divided government.  The Republicans when they had years of controlling the Presidency and both houses of Congress under Bush II did zero to get our fiscal house in order and in fact with the Iraq war and Medicare part D, among other things, showed a profligacy that belies their current pious words.

PPS- Kevin Drum needs to have the balls not to play both sides of the street.  He has made it clear in other articles that he thinks it is an economic disaster that the government is spending so little right now.  When he shows a deficit reduction chart, if he were consistent, he should be saying that Republicans suck for forcing this kind of deficit reduction against Obama's better judgement and we need the deficit to go back up.  Have the courage of your convictions.  Instead, he plays team loyalty rather than intellectual consistency, crediting Obama for deficit reduction while at the same time hammering Republicans for austerity.  Dude, its one or the other.

PPPS-  For the first time during this Presidency, both the President and both house of Congress offered a budget:

[The] House passed a budget calling for spending $3.5 trillion in 2014, the Senate passed one calling for $3.7 trillion, and Obama submitted one calling for $3.77 trillion

So the actor that submitted the highest budget gets the credit for deficit reduction?


  1. frankensteingovernment:

    The annual budget deficit has consistently been under estimated on behalf of Team Obama all year long- mostly due to the sequester. Still think it will be in the neighborhood of 750 billion at best- 850 at worst- which is a 30% reduction. I note your figure was based on the lowest estimate of all- by the CBO- of 650-700.

  2. Pinebluff:

    Did the Senate actually pass a budget? One came out of committee, but Senator Reid wasn't going to allow a vote by the full senate.

  3. Sam L.:

    If Barry has cut the deficit, then why is he asking for the debt ceiling to be raised? Again.

  4. Matthew Slyfield:

    Because it isn't the budget deficit that really matters, it's the long term debt. They are (and have been for a long time, Obama didn't start this) keeping the long term debt largely off the budget by using new debt to pay off old debt.

  5. mesaeconoguy:

    The leftist delusional narrative that the deficit is falling is complete and total bullshit.

    The reported deficit has indeed fallen, due to gimmicks like self-declaring Fannie & Freddie dividends (both government-controlled).

    GAAP-based accounting (in line with corporate standards) shows the actual 2012 deficit at $6.6 trillion (vs. the fraudulent $1.1 trillion “official” number), an all-time high.

    The 2013 deficit will be even larger.

  6. mesaeconoguy:

    Deficits are aggregated to total long term debt.

    Once the limit of long term debt outstanding has been reached, Congress must raise it, or retire debt outstanding to reduce it below the current limit.

    What no one understands (except Matthew, me, and a few others) is that welfare programs and transfer payments like Socialist Insecurity are now contributing directly to debt outstanding, so we will hit debt limits with greater rapidity and frequency going forward, if the increments are not raised.

    Obamascare will also help.

    So get ready for a lot more of this nonsense, with no one actually addressing the root problem.

  7. MingoV:

    When your first budget results in a one trillion dollar deficit, cutting it in half five years later is not something to brag about. Especially when the first budget included 900 billion dollars in "one-time" stimulus expenses. If those expenses truly were "one-time", then the next fiscal year would have seen a 90% drop in the deficit. Somehow the left-wingers always miss this point.

  8. Tanuki Man:

    Weigel has been a Democrat Journolist apparatchik from his first appearance in print. He is to be taken cum grano salis if he reports the sun rising in the east.

  9. Alby Dürer:

    Why do you talk so much about what Kevin Drum writes? Who cares what he writes? I really like this blog, but maybe mix up your idiot leftists a bit more, please.

  10. mesaeconoguy:

    Entirely agreed, but the thing is Kevin Dumb used to be fringe leftthink, and he's now mainstream.

    That's how far this country has drifted left mein Herr Albrecht.

  11. mesocyclone:

    Hanging the costs of the Iraq war on "Republican profligacy" isn't very accurate. The Iraq was wasn't planned to be expensive, unlike Democrat programs planned that way from the start. It was expensive because of bad luck and bad execution. The bad luck was Turkey's last minute refusal to allow forces to invade from the North, which otherwise would have concentrated the fighting in Anbar province, possibly averting the Sunni uprising. The bad execution was the failure of Rumsfeld et. al. to recognize that things weren't going according to plan. Once Bush put in the surge (Petraeus' tactics), it worked and the war came to a quick end.

    As for Medicare Part D - if you can't get insurance for your old age (good luck trying), then you are stuck with Medicare. And Medicare without prescription drug insurance is like ordinary health insurance without it: living dangerously. Prescription drugs are getting very expensive, and if you have certain diseases can be astoundingly expensive ($150,000 for a course of chemotherapy). So yeah, Part D is expensive, but given that we don't live in Libertopia, it helps a lot with the system we are stuck with: Medicare. BTW, since elephants rather than donkeys did it, it is costing *under* projections and is handled by private insurance companies.

  12. obloodyhell:

    }}} It is just possible that a person from another planet landing today might buy this story

    Someone landing from another planet probably comes from an economic system far less lunatic than the one Obama supports. I believe the response of anyone from another planet would be some paraphrasal of "What you be talkin' 'bout, Willis?"... In actual fact, depending on how far away they're from and when our TV signals reached there, those might be their exact words.

    No, you have to be just off the turnip truck from some complete FANTASY world in order to not see the flaws in that claim. Perhaps someone from Panem might buy it.

  13. obloodyhell:

    This country is so far left that Ralph Nader is now a raging conservative.

    They're so far away from the road and off in left field that they couldn't see the road with the telescope @ Mt. Palomar from where they are.

  14. obloodyhell:

    Since it's on their head, that would require a mirror... and while they love to see themselves, they never use mirrors, they have cameras which apply special fx to remove the scars, blemishes, warts, and all the ugliness.

  15. obloodyhell:

    Oh, I suspect we'll be addressing the root problem soon. Just not via politicians, since they ARE the root problem.

  16. norse:

    *Cough* Fair? Seriously, war's are always costly and economically unproductive. If you go and engage in one, expect a to pay up. In addition, there's the insane spending on "security". All of these can be blamed on the administrations in charge at the time of cost increases (and, to be clear, that includes both of our parasitic parties and all presidents involved). The point of being president is that you *don't* have to do something stupidly costly unless you really want to.

  17. norse:

    "PS- This is not an advocacy for Republicans as much as for divided government. " - That! Thank you. Most lucid and succinct summation of the crisis of our day and age... while each party when in charge abuses the system and makes sure we're worse off in the long run, the effect is retarded a tiny little bit each year by the other party running some inept interference. Kind of sad that that's the best result we can hope for.

  18. mesocyclone:

    Wars are always costly. Their economic value, however, is not so simply defined. The direct expenditures, of course, are a negative. But if the war protects a critical economic asset (such as oil), it may be worth far more than its cost. Beyond that, if the war defends vital interests, the same can be said. Would you say that we shouldn't have fought WW-II because of the expense?

    Presidents and military men are not psychic, and war is notoriously difficult to predict. So a war that looks inexpensive (as OIF did) can get very expensive. Presidents have to make tough choices. OIF made a lot of sense as a strategic war. Way beyond defanging Saddam, it would have split the Shia crescent had Obama not blown it at the end, and it scared Iran into stopping most of their nuclear program for a few years. In fact, OIF, if we hadn't pulled out at the last moment, would have been far more important strategically than the Afghan war. In the former, creating a friendly government made sense. In the latter, striking a retaliatory blow was strategically critical, but maintaining control of Afghanistan for a long time makes little sense.

  19. marque2:

    I quite disappointed with Bush'es first term as president, allowing domestic spending to go through the roof.

    However, in 2004, who was I suppose to vote for? If we had Kerry in, he would just want more spending, as we saw in 2006 when the dems took over the congress, and spending went up even faster even with "divided government"

    Hmm, just reasoning it out here while typing to you gets me thinking, it may not be unified government but the bozos actually in government who are the problem. Bush could have easily told his folks to cut back.

  20. marque2:

    Personally I am not so upset with the war spending of Bush, you know war is an necessary evil, and sometimes it goes wrong. What I was upset about was that Bush let congress increase domestic spending (spending not related to war) at an 8% rate as well, when inflation was around 2%. It was the domestic spending which ultimately made the deficit look bad. We can afford 100 billion in war every now and then, but add an additional 300 billion in domestic spending and you start having as his dad would say "kinder gentler" problems.

  21. marque2:

    Some parts of GAAP accounting don't really work well for government. A lot of the depreciation requirements do not apply for instance. But yes, I agree there is a lot of monkey business in the deficit.

  22. marque2:

    The social security thing is a bit crazy. Technically it is in a special form of US bond, and now they are calling in those bonds, which I guess technically doesn't raise the deficit, but the government does have to go out and purchase more bonds or find money to pay for SSA benes now.

  23. mesocyclone:

    You have a point, there, although I do think Part D was both necessary and inevitable. At least we got a relatively free market version of it, rather than some monstrosity if the Dems had done it.

    Beyond that, I think there were two forces at play:

    1) "Kindler, Gentler" - without the war, this might have been a defensible tactic for increasing conservative power and image. But the spending would have to have been narrower. With the war, any image improvement was lost in the vicious and uncalled for (but predictable) Democrat and main stream media assault on Bush and the war.

    2) Bush and Reagan faced the same issue: they had major foreign policy initiatives for which they needed Congress, and as a result, I think they had to give Congress things they might have held back otherwise. I don't know how strong this was with Bush, but Reagan always faced a Democrat house (which, ironically, shut down the goverment 7 times) and sometimes a Democrat Senate.

  24. xtmar:

    Did helping Stalin and Mao in WWII really improve the state of the world? I don't think we could have avoided the Pacific theatre, but I'm not convinced that helping Stalin was a good choice from either a humanitarian or a strategic standpoint.

  25. mesocyclone:

    Are you saying we should have avoided the Atlantic theater, even though Germany had declared war on us?

  26. xtmar:

    Did Germany declare war on us out of the blue, or did FDR's extra-legal assistance to the British in the Atlantic have anything to do with creating a de facto state of war before the actual declaration of war?

    Also, it's worth remembering that the extra-special US-UK relationship is primarily a function of WWII. Before that, while we were allies, there wasn't the same level of trust and reliance that came up in the post-WWII era, and there was somewhat more acrimony between the two countries; thus a "think of the British" argument, while appealing, doesn't carry the same weight as it would now, where the UK is practically the 52nd state (after Canada). It would be like abandoning the Turks or the Italians today.

    More succintly, I don't know enough to definitively say one way or the other if we should have gotten involved in the Atlantic theatre, but I don't think it's the slam dunk case that everyone makes it out to be.

  27. mesocyclone:

    Shall we take your hypothetical logically down the road.

    The US stays out of the European war, even though the Nazi's had declared war on us and were sinking our shipa.

    Britain falls to the Nazi's.

    Russia and Germany fight to a standstill and sign a treaty to end the hostilities.

    Germany and Russia conquer and divide up the Persian Gulf, gaining control of most of the world's petroleum.

    The Nazi's continue their development of guided missiles, a technology nobody else in the world had.

    The Nazi's continue their development of nuclear weapons until they get them (Not all the smart German physicists and engineers fled).

    The result:

    Hitler with nuclear tipped ICBM's.

    Stalin still in power, allied with Germany again.

    Europe under German control.

    The Persian Gulf under German and Soviet control.

    Much of Africa under German control.

    Mao with increased aid from the USSR, conquers China anyway.

    Great strategy, dude.

  28. xtmar:

    Or Russia beats Germany anyways, since the Eastern front was always were the action was for the Germans.

    Turning our undivided attention to the Pacific war, we conquer Japan more quickly, and have the time and resources to take China and much of Southeast Asia.

    While Persian Gulf oil will eventually be important, at that time most of the world's oil was being produced in the United States, with lesser amounts being produced in Iran, the Carribean, and the Far East. The big Gulf finds, especially Saudi, only came online after the war. [Ghawar, which has accounted for 60% of all Saudi production ever, was only discovered in 1948, and didn't enter production until 1951. This isn't to downplay the importance of the Gulf in general, but just to point out that it wasn't as important back then.]

    We still have nukes, so we're left at stalemate vis a vis nuclear weapons, exactly like we were with the Russians five (seven?) years later. Is Hitler with ICBMs demonstrably worse than Stalin with ICBMs?

    From a strictly American standpoint, why is Europe under German control worse than Europe under split Allied/Soviet control? Obviously it sucks for the non-Germans to be under the heel of the Reich, but by the time we invaded Normandy and so forth, most of the "undesireables" from western Europe had already been shipped off and killed, so it wasn't like we managed to save many of them.*

    Finally, I sincerely doubt that a Russo-German stability pact would be any more stable the second time around than the first one was.

    This is the fun of counter-factuals. They all turn on a few small details, and nobody know how they would have turned out, because history only happens once.

    *To flesh this out a bit, the Germans were quite willing to trade with us. Indeed, in WWI, when we were actually neutral, they sent supply subs to New York with some regularity until mid-1917 (if I recall the dates right), in order to pick up things that they couldn't produce at home in sufficient quantities. There is no reason that we couldn't have come to a similar arrangement with the Germans, were they would trade with us, and we with them.

  29. mesocyclone:

    Germany, not burdened by fighting the US, and having finished off Britain, would probably have beat the unsupported Soviets, or fought to a draw as Russians withdrew farther and farther east. After all, the US was propping up Britain, which we couldn't do if we wished to stay out of the war. We were helping Stalin.

    We might have been delayed in having nukes, because the British made major contributions to that project, which would not have been available. But we would *not* have had ICBM's, IRBM's or even SRBM's, and neither would Russia. Hitler would have had them, and nukes (the nukes would have probably have been after we got ours).

    The US trying to deter Hitler (yes, it's Hitler we're talking about, not a rational actor) is very questionable when Hitler has superior weaponry. The US would have no way to strike Germany with nukes except aircraft carriers. The Germans would have nuclear missiles that could attack the carriers *and* the US. After having conquered Europe and part of Russia, Hitler would be happy to nuke the US - especially since our ability to respond would be minimal.

    From a strictly American point of view, a Europe under *Nazi* German control would be much worse than Europe under split Allied/Soviet control, because that Europe, with its vast industrial capacity not having been flattened, would be a very dangerous enemy instead of a friendly trading partner.

    As you say, counter-factuals can turn on small details. But that also shows that the case *against* going to war against Germany is weak.

    BTW, would you have countenanced trading with the Nazis, given their inherent evil? We traded with the USSR, but only to reduce the risk of nuclear war by making them dependent on us (and less hungry) but that trade was highly restricted and not a significant source of income to the huge US economy.

  30. JW:

    Instead, he plays team loyalty rather than intellectual consistency, crediting Obama for deficit reduction while at the same time hammering Republicans for austerity. Dude, its one or the other.

    There's a very simply explanation about Drum: He's a dishonest hack who should never be taken seriously. Any occasional appearance of being honest and/or holding a similar position to yours is merely coincidental.

  31. mesaeconoguy:

    Here’s the explanation:


    Here is more about how bad the Socialist Insecurity problem is:


    The only way to “fix” it is to eliminate it for people under 45. There is now no other way (other than crushing taxes) to re-sustain it.