For some strange reason, whenever the State Journal editorializes about the federal debt, it’s almost exactly like Republican spin. Today, of course, was no exception. They’re demanding seriousness from the Dems at their national convention. That would be okay, but we’d rather just see honesty all around.
We don’t think debt is our current number one problem. We actually need more spending to stimulate job growth and demand for business. We should be building and repairing now while borrowing costs are low. We need jobs, jobs, jobs. But let’s put that aside and focus on the debt.
What’s causing the debt? Let’s look again at this graph.
Note first that the graph begins at a low point in 2001. In 2001 we weren’t adding to the debt, because the Clinton years succeeded in balancing the budget.
Then George W. Bush and the Republicans took over. They promptly set us back on the path of more and more debt. Note the orange swath at the top. The Bush-era tax cuts are THE biggest factor driving increasing federal debt, now and in the future. Really, nearly everything in the graph — tax cuts, wars, the recession, and measures to fight the recession — were Bush-era policies enthusiastically supported by Republicans (yes, including Paul Ryan).
So the Republicans were merrily — really, merrily — adding to the debt until approximately the day Barack Obama became President. And then, the Republicans turned on a dime and began their public hysterics over debt. Naturally the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board did the same.
Now you might think that a good way to reduce the debt would be to examine what’s causing it and then stop doing that. This would first mean getting rid of the Bush era tax cuts.
Simple? Well, it would be a big start. But as everyone knows, the Republicans won’t have it. They won’t allow it. They can’t. Getting rid of the Bush tax cuts, would be a “tax increase,” and the Republicans are simply intransigent. They’ve signed pledges to Grover Norquist. If they vote for any kind of tax increase, the Club for Growth and a dozen other well-funded groups will fund their opponents in the next Republican primary.
So all kinds of reasonable compromise has been blocked. And we use the word reasonable intentionally. We don’t think you can look at the graph above, and “reasonably” say, “we want to attack the debt, but the Bush-era tax cuts must continue.”
But that’s the Republican message. Serious people should not take it seriously.
Are you listening, WSJ editorial board?