The War on Math, Part 2: Is the GOP Out of Step with America?

In the continuing GOP/Tea Party "War On Math," the insistence on balancing the budget by cutting spending may be doing serious damage to the Republican Party's credibility -- so says Professor Lawrence Jacobs writing for CNN, who finds that polling is going against the GOP in a big way.

The GOP's insistence on reducing U.S. debt solely by making cuts to government programs is unpopular and increasingly so -- less than a fifth of Americans favor this approach as opposed to 56% who favor a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes (that's a 10 percentage point jump as the debt ceiling debate has played out since early June).

Part of the reason for that is probably because people can make common sense of the issue -- too much spending + not enough revenue = a problem. The truth is that President Obama is being considerably more candid about that problem than is Speaker Boehner. As the New York Times points out in the graphic (click to view larger), the total cost of policies under the Bush Administration have been considerably higher than would Obama's be as projected over an eight-year period.

The difference? The bulk of the deficit came at the hands of war spending and tax cuts, two items that the GOP faithful seem to think makes for a good time. (And at the same time, no less, which was the guns-and-butter approach that helped otherwise kill Federal revenues during a time of relative affluence.)

Here's another graphic -- this one from the White House, so take it as you will. But one thing it does illustrate is where the deficit *could* have been in 2011 given the trajectory it was on when Bill Clinton left office -- and where it is now.

In this case, Obama takes "credit" for the same $1.4 trillion the NYTimes gives him, but piles another $2T on Bush for good measure, much of it in the Bush tax cuts.

So why is the budget deficit (not national debt, but budget deficit) so much larger under Obama than it was under Bush?

Aside from the increases in discretionary spending and stimulus spending that Obama clearly "owns" -- you can't avoid the unassailable MATH -- there's been a strong falling off of TAX REVENUE since the Great Recession kicked in (image: Business Insider):

We've seen an actual, literal falling off of the amount of money coming into the coffers of the U.S. Treasury as a result of the Great Recession, itself a product of bubble-fueled real estate speculation, the "ownership society" policies of Bush II and poor government oversight of financial products. On top of that, we've had $1.6 trillion in stimulus (2008 and 2009) to try to keep banks, industries, states and individuals afloat, while we've continued massive war spending.

Is it crazy, rampant, "socialist" spending to re-distribute wealth? Naw. It's a Great Recession -- meaning less is coming in while spending has increased somewhat. Result: Widening deficits.

So what's the solution? As the jobless recovery continues, one part of solution has to be to continue some sort of stimulus for folks on the lower end of the income spectrum, perhaps through payroll tax cuts or other programs. (A jobs program -- literally WPA or some private-public partnership with similar goals -- could also help.)

That's necessary spending that -- if you think about it -- props up both the economy and the corporations and hedge fund owners who rail against being taxed or de-subsidized when they buy jets and drill oil wells. (Drink!)

But then you're also going to need to raise some revenues -- partly to make up for lost revenues during the recession and partly to make up for lost revenues (i.e. Bush tax cuts) during the "boom times" of the 2000s -- and those revenues need to come from the folks who can most afford it. At the same time, we'll certainly need to cut spending -- winding down the wars is one place to start -- but a balanced approach is really the only thing that's going to make much sense... and there's even an argument against too many spending cuts too soon, as they could cause even more joblessness, leading to even less spending, leading to lower GDP growth.

And polls shows that folks out here can kinda see the logic in that. (Oh, and the walkouts and hissy fits don't help the GOP's cause.)

There's a lesson for Obama in this, too -- as Professor Jacobs points out: The President needs to avoid blaming everything on Washington and government; as that feeds a Tea Party meme a bit too nicely. Jacobs writes:

"The president's flagging of Washington's "dysfunction" reinforces the distrust of government that many Americans harbor, oddly making it harder for him to rally support behind government programs such as Medicare and Social Security. This may help to explain why the GOP is losing the debt ceiling debate and yet three-quarters of Americans favor a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.

But, ultimately, I think it's the GOP overplaying this particular hand they've been dealt; by standing firm in their conviction not to compromise on revenues -- a position supported firmly by only 19% of the electorate, as opposed to finding both spending and revenue gains -- which has 56% support -- the GOP/Tea Party War on Math could very well have a lasting effect on their legacy -- and their chances going into an election season.

Previous Comments


Who in the heck the GOP still has credibility with except the blind, stupid and crazy and theTea Party Believers and supporters? I like the advice given to President Obama here. If Obama gets four more years the republican party will destroy itself. In that event, I believe the GOP and Tea Party will stop faking the funk and say exactly what they mean. I know I might come off slightly partisan and Democrat leaning? However, I'm really an independent who now votes Democrat 100 percent of the time because republicans are so awful these days. What better illustration of how awful they are than to risk America losing hit credit rating, et al, for the hidden purpose of defeating and destroying President Obama?


I am sick of the nasty power struggle going on in Washington because that is really what this is all about - power. Taking the let-them-eat-cake approach just to please a fringe minority is unconscionable. I have a brother with autism, and I would hate to see him go without a check because certain members of Congress want to to play around with people's livelihoods. I've said it before and I'll say it again: ban political parties, and for every presidential election, the person who wins the popular vote gets the job - no electoral college. Maybe that way these guys will focus on what they're supposed to be - public servants.


Members of the Tea Party, most, if not all of Freshman Republicans, Sarah Palin, Michelle Barkhman and the list grows long with this agenda: "Get rid of Obama: We will make him a one term president". This is the GOAL of the GOP. There is an elephant hiding under the green on the pool table. There is also another elephant hiding in the china closet: His name is racism. Evidence: No other President has ever faced this kind of challenge/drama for raising the debt ceiling. These folks are on a mission to "TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK" and it is by any means necessary. The super wealthy, 2% of America, are being protected by the stupid, arrogant and ignorant. These folks are actually fighting for a situation that will ultimately harm them, their families and generations of children to come. I agree that America's debt issue must be addressed; however, it did not start last night and it will not be solved over night. President Bill Clinton left a balanced budget with a 5 trillion dollar surplus. If the rich and big business are claiming to produce jobs, my question is WHERE IN THE HELL ARE THEY? Scroll down for answer: OVER SEAS



Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment