Democrats Notice They’re Spending Us Into Oblivion

NationalDebt.jpgThe New York Times notes that there are a lot of nervous Democrats in Washington who have suddenly noticed that the deficit and our national debt have somehow mysteriously spiraled into a range of numbers generally reserved for discussions of the number of grains of sand on the world’s beaches. Is it because of some new found concern for the public purse? Apparently not. But they did remember that many of them will be facing an election next year.

Faced with anxiety in financial markets about the huge federal deficit and the potential for it to become an electoral liability for Democrats, the White House and Congressional leaders are weighing options for narrowing the gap, including a bipartisan commission that could force tax increases and spending cuts.

But even the idea of a panel to bridge the partisan divide has run into partisan objections. Many Democrats, including in the White House, are loath to cede such far-reaching decisions to a commission and doubt Republicans’ willingness to compromise. And most Republicans remain adamantly opposed to tax increases, leaving the prospects for any bipartisan approach limited at best.

As usual, the Paper of Record rushes to paint this as Republican obstructionism and a desire to “cut taxes more than we can afford” but there may just be a possibility that the fear of the ballot box might actually get some of this spending under control. There is also a desire on the part of some (and I believe the President is among this number) to see some breaks in the partisan gridlock, and among Dem Congressional leaders to at least paint the illusion of bipartisanship on their actions.

I won’t be holding my breath, but it’s at least a hopeful sign.

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  • SteveK

    Here's another graph that is: a) legible and b) puts some perspective on who has actually “spent us into oblivion”. Hint it wasn't the Democrats.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Don't even try it SteveK we all know that only social and domestic programs cost money wars and empire America are paid for with hugs and puppy kisses.

  • DaGoat

    You may have a point Steve, but I doubt the Democrats can run on a platform of blaming Bush forever. Eventually voters will question why they aren't taking steps to reduce the deficit.

  • http://www.nonpartisanpundit.com/ Andy

    Stevek,

    Last time I checked the Congress is the constitutional body responsible for creating and passing a budget, not the President.

  • SteveK

    DaGoat wrote: “…but I doubt the Democrats can run on a platform of blaming Bush forever.”

    I agree, we can't blame Bush forever BUT it's fraudulent and foolish to imply (as some are) that it's all been since Obama became President. That's why it's as important to keep the facts (& the previous eight years of spending) out in the open and in the minds of American. This, along with the last eight months, is why what's happening now is… happening now.

  • superdestroyer

    The Democrats in the House have approved the last three budgets. To claim that FY08 and FY09 were not Democratic Party budgets is wrong. Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic chairman could have cut spending anytime they wanted. The problem is that they did not want to cut spending. And that was with divided government. That that the Republicans are irrelevant, spending as increased and the progressive wonks are calling for even higher spending.

    Do you really think that the spending will go down once the worse part of the recession is over? Given the history of the Democrats in California, Maryland, Chicago, etc. The higher level of spending is with us forever. The Democrats just do not want to take resposibility for the coming massive tax increases. They would prefer to blame the Republicans by using a “Bipartisan commission” to jack taxes on middle class and upper middle class white through the roof.

  • SteveK

    Andy wrote: “Last time I checked the Congress is the constitutional body responsible for creating and passing a budget…”

    And your point is?..

  • http://www.nonpartisanpundit.com/ Andy

    And your point is?..

    Look at your chart again and consider which party controlled Congress.

    And really, both parties are quite guilty of running up the budget. Arguing which one is worse is kind of pointless.

  • AustinRoth

    SteveK -

    WTF? Your own chart shows the line firing upwards when Obama takes office.

    Hint – Obama is a Democrat!

  • redbus

    Steve K -

    As a fellow Democrat, let's be honest: The Dems need to get spending under control. The Blue Dog coalition should lead the way on this, since they have some fiscal credibility. I'd like to think Pelosi and Reid will wake up and smell the coffee, but they seem oblivious to the financial cliff we're off which we're on the verge of hurdling.

  • AustinRoth

    SteveK -

    His point is obvious, even if you choose to feign ignorance. It is not the Executive that controls the purse strings, but the Legislative Branch.

    But, I will concede the point that the President has a very strong influence on the spending decision of Congress. So again, as I just stated in my last post, notice the hockey-stick effect in your own chart since Obama took office.

  • SteveK

    AustinRoth wrote: “His point is obvious, even if you choose to feign ignorance. It is not the Executive that controls the purse strings, but the Legislative Branch.”

    You folks act as if you forgot about Bush's multi-annual, multi-multi-billion dollar off the budget “emergency supplemental funding” that were pushed through congress by the right chanting anyone opposing this spending was both 'Un-American” and “Hated the Troops”.

    That's a mighty big elephant in the room that many here choose to ignore in all this but I've done all I can and see no value in playing “yeah but” anymore.

  • http://www.nonpartisanpundit.com/ Andy

    Steve,

    The fact that Congress didn't have a spine to stand up to Bush doesn't change the fact that budgetary power rests with Congress. Now the Democrats are in charge of both branches. So tell us, what is going to happen? Somehow I seriously doubt we'll be seeing the surpluses we had in the 1990's simply because the party you like is in power.

  • http://polimom.com Polimom

    Steve K seems to be fixated on “blame”… as in, it's not the Democrats fault. This is very much in line with the entire political dialogue these days. Everybody's very busy tossing hot potatoes around and pointing fingers. From my point of view, this is a complete and utter waste of time.

    It doesn't actually matter whether it was the Democrats, the Republicans, or little green aliens from Mars who drove up the numbers. The operable data is this: we're facing a crushing fiscal situation, and *the Dems are in charge right now*.! This very moment, they are the ones who have to lead. No time for sitting and stewing and fretting and pointing and blaming.

  • http://www.nonpartisanpundit.com/ Andy

    Well said Polimom.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/blog/OQGAGQL7ZFHS2GTUXPRIA275QY nicrivera

    It's funny (or sad) how so many of you interpret this data in whatever way best suites your partisan beliefs. No matter what the data says, somehow it always proves that the other party is at fault.

    The truth of the matter is that discretionary and nondiscretionary spending exploded during Bush's first term in office, surged again during his final year in office, and is now accelerating even faster under Obama and a Democrat-controlled congress.

    The idea that the president can't be held responsible for deficit spend since it's congress that writes the bills is a joke since all it takes is a swipe of the President's veto pen to send a bill into the dustbin of history.

    I see a lot of hypocrisy and feigned outrage coming from both sides. All the concern coming from Republicans regarding spending and big government is pretty much empty rhetoric given their silence during the Bush era. And all the “But Bush did it too” rhetoric coming from Democrats, even as they unapologetically clamor for even more spending and bigger government under Obama.

    Maybe instead of blaming the other party, people throughout the blogosphere (including here at TMV) ought to be considering how they've voted over the last several years. How many people complaining about government spending and deficits decided to vote to give Bush a second term back in 2004, considering the disastrous job he did during his first term? How many people complaining about government spending and deficits decided to vote straight ticket Democrat in 2008, as if single party rule was going to solve anything?

    If you people continue to keep voting for Democrats and Republicans–particularly if it's to put a single party in control of both the Executive and Legislative branches–why should you you expect anything to change?

  • SteveK

    With a thread TITLED: “Democrats Notice They’re Spending Us Into Oblivion” polimom seems to think that I'm the one “fixated on “blame”… too funny.

  • http://www.newshoggers.com/ Ron Beasley

    We will continue to run deficits as long as we play policeman for the world so the Military Industrial Complex can make big profits. Since Obama continues down this road he now owns at least part of it. The only thing the WOT is accomplishing is further destabilizing the middle east and enabling the forever but profitable war.

  • http://the-speculator.blogspot.com/ AshenShard

    Why don't we just cut military spending in half, that would get rid of the deficit quite quickly.

  • AustinRoth

    Why don't we cut social entitlement programs by 100%? That would get rid of it even quicker.

  • http://www.nonpartisanpundit.com/ Andy

    Military spending has remained pretty consistent on the basis of GDP. Pretty much every other area of government spending has risen dramatically in comparison. Considering that the interest on existing debt alone is almost $400 billion a year, cutting the defense budget (~$600 billion this year) won't make much difference.

    Stevek,

    So what is your position? That the Democrats are blameless? You originally said it wasn't the Democrats who “spent us into oblivion.” Well, you're wrong. With the exception of a couple of years, the Democrats have held either Congress or the White house for for the past several decades. They could have put a lid on spending and they didn't. Neither did the Republicans. Holding one party or another blameless is willful ignorance of the facts.

  • http://www.xpatriatedtexan.com/blog ThurmanHart

    AshenShard: Why don't we just cut military spending in half, that would get rid of the deficit quite quickly.

    AustinRoth: Why don't we cut social entitlement programs by 100%? That would get rid of it even quicker.

    It depends on how you count your change. Take a look. The major difference is that most of our entitlement programs are not funded on debt – Social Security, for example, runs a surplus that buys other government debt (such as that created by bloated defense spending).

    At any rate, neither is going to happen.

    More to the point: “Democrats Notice They’re Spending Us Into Oblivion” is not strictly true. If we look at US Debt versus sources of revenue for the US Government, we aren't really in that bad of trouble. The Government takes in something like $2.5 trillion in revenues from an economy that's roughly $15 trillion per year. I think our total debt is about $60 trillion. The size of the numbers makes them scary, but it's easier to understand this way.

    Our debt is 24 times our current income. That would be like holding $1.2 million in debt on a salary of $50,000 (something I don't advise). There are two things that make it impossible – first, interest payments on debt; and second, the fixed income.

    The solution is simple: generate a surplus and use some of it to pay down the debt. If, for example, the government revenues were $3 trillion, then our debt is only 20 times our current income (which is still huge, don't get me wrong). But rather than having a roughly $300 billion deficit, we would have a roughly $300 billion surplus. If that is applied direct to debt, then four years would pay off $1.2 trillion worth of debt – which would begin cutting back on our interest payments.

    The thing to do is to both raise revenues slightly and cut back on spending – so that $3 trillion of revenue raises a $500 billion surplus in every year. In four years, you retire $2 trillion worth of debt, rather than only $1.2 trillion. It's the difference in paying off the whole thing in 200 years versus paying it off in 120 years. Obviously, if you slice spending and raise taxes to the point of retiring debt at the rate of $1 billion per year, the pay-off time is much lower.

    The problem is that we lack the political will to even do one thing – cut spending or raise revenues – much less to accomplish both. What we have is two parties who are embracing the flip-side of irresponsibility.

  • imavettoo

    A big part of the problem is that Bush/Cheney were waging two wars off the books. Obama came into office & recognized the cost of said wars & put them on the books. That is a much more honest way to run the show.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com T-Steel

    Neither party, as some have echoed here, have the guts and dare I say VISION, to reign in spending. The dueling finger pointing feels so childish. So now the Democrats are in charge and spending is surging. And if the Republicans take back control, I bet we see continued surging spending. The only solution in my book is a strong third party that's not beholden to any entity (or a small number of entities). The Democrat and Republican machines churn out cookie cutter political leaders.

    Also, not all spending is bad. But we definitely need to reign it in. But hey, the Big 2 have it all figured out: back-forth and blame and do the same. Whatever…

  • VeratheGun

    Say what you want about Bill and Newt, but they left us in the best fiscal shape of my lifetime.

  • elrod

    Actually, the real problem is long-term deficits, not short-term spending this year. I support the stimulus package because I believe our economy needs it, and we will be better off in the long run for it. But there are other big ticket, long term items that will hurt us if we don't get it under control: Social Security, Medicare and Defense are the three biggest.

    1) On Medicare, we are planning major cuts (particularly to Medicare Advantage) and if the larger health care bill bends the total cost curve then it will help. Still, health care is going to continue to eat up an alarming slice of the American budget as we live longer, eat unhealthy food, and use fancy technology.

    2) On Social Security the answer is pretty easy if a commission gives the political cover to do it: Raise the retirement age to 67, and raise the cap from roughly 90k to 130k. That will take care of a HUGE chunk of our deficit and our long term debt.

    3) On defense, continue cutting wasteful weapons systems and move away from neocon imperial fantasies.

    Eventually we will need to raise income taxes, though probably not by a lot. We've seen over the last few decades that marginal increases and decreases in income tax rates have virtually no effect on the national economy – but a large effect on the government's balance sheet.

    Make the bold choices on long-term spending and revenue and we will be alright.

  • ProfElwood

    I liked Clinton the president, precisely because he held back spending and even made some rather effective reforms. But he had to come back to reality after his health care fiasco. The Bush/Obama trend hasn't turned around, nor does it seem to have an end to it.

    Even the few cuts that Obama suggested earlier this year are now being snubbed by his own party. You would think that out of 2.5 trillion, something could be cut out.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/blog/OQGAGQL7ZFHS2GTUXPRIA275QY nicrivera

    Say what you want about Bill and Newt, but they left us in the best fiscal shape of my lifetime.

    Ahh, the wonders of divided government. Federal spending tends to go up whenever one party controls both the Executive and Legislative branches, regardless of which party is in power.

  • JeffersonDavis

    I did some research on your claim, Steve. Using only the chart you referenced, it's easy to draw a conclusion. I took the graph and filled in all of the congresses since 1940 color-coded with full dem control and full repub control (red/blue) and placed purple for a mixed rule (house/senate).

    Placing those with the original graphs depicting Presidential rule, another conclusion can be reached.

    The eras of most downward trend were during times when a Democratic President was presiding with a Full Republican Congress (Truman and Clinton). Both of these instances were reversals of upward debt into a better economy and lower debt.

    At no time in history has such a reversal been acheived with same party rule with the President and Congress. That goes for both parties.

    And yes, the Democrats are indeed running us into debt oblivion. And yes, it was started by a Republican (Bush). The ghost of Bush can no longer be blamed when it is THEIR votes that cause the debt to go higher.

  • JeffersonDavis

    “the Dems are in charge right now*.! This very moment, they are the ones who have to lead. No time for sitting and stewing and fretting and pointing and blaming.”

    You'd make an excellent military leader, Polimom (if you aren't one already).
    Well said.

  • JeffersonDavis

    You are right. Clinton was an excellent executive and fiscal conservative. But a good chunk of the credit he receives for this feat lies within the Republican controlled Congress. Likewise with the Truman Presidency and the Republican contolled Congress. But like nicrivera alluded to, the debt tends to rise when one party controls the entire government.

    However, that was only the case after 1976. After 1976 our politics and economy changed. Our politics became more divisive and our economy shifted into “service” mode after jobs began to be shipped out of the country. It was also the time our energy became irreversibly controlled by foreign dictatorships and monarchs.

    Now with a Democratic President and Congress our debt is climbing at the fastest rate in history. That worked in 1945 since we had a huge industrial sector with jobs a-plenty. It just won't work the same this time around. The spending will be just that – spending. No tangible benefits for the working man.

  • VeratheGun

    Off the top of my head, here are a few more things we could do to reduce spending and pad the budget a little:

    1.) Means test Social Security. Warren Buffet and the elderly very rich don't need it.
    2.) Tax everyone's earnings fully for SS. The arbitrary $106,000 or whatever it is, makes no sense. (and the antitaxers can bite it–I would guarantee that my husband and I would pay much more tax–but we would gladly, if it helped get the country back on track)
    3.) Encourage hospice and comfort care at end of life, rather than expensive tests and procedures that may lengthen life slightly, but add incredible costs to he rest of us.
    4.) Get the hell out of Dodge–Afghanistan and Iraq.

    That would be a start.

  • SteveK

    Anything you say JD…

    106th United States Congress – January 3, 1999 to January 3, 2001
    The Senate – January 3, 1999 – 55 Republicans / 45 Democrats
    The Senate Republicans had a 54% to 46% majority (with Lieberman and the BlueDogs voting the GOP line)
    The numbers in the House fluctuates but the final voting share was Republicans 51.2% to the Democrats 48.5%.

    107th United States Congress – January 3, 2001 to January 3, 2003
    The Senate – January 3, 2001 – 50 Republicans / 50 Democrats
    The Senate Republicans had a 51.5% to 48.5% majority (with Lieberman and the BlueDogs voting the GOP line)
    The numbers in the House fluctuates but the final voting share was Republicans 52.0% to the Democrats 48.0%.

    108th United States Congress – January 3, 2003 to January 3, 2005
    The Senate – January 3, 2003 – 50 Republicans / 48 Democrats / 1 Independent / 1 Ind (D)
    The Senate Republicans had a 51% to 49% majority (with Lieberman and the BlueDogs voting the GOP line)
    The numbers in the House fluctuates but the final voting share was Republicans 52.0% to the Democrats 48.0%.

    109th United States Congress – January 3, 2005 to January 3, 2007
    The Senate – January 3, 2005 – 55 Republicans / 44 Democrats / 1 Independent
    The Senate Republicans had a 55% to 45% majority (with Lieberman and the BlueDogs voting the GOP line)
    The numbers in the House fluctuates but the final voting share was Republicans 53.0% to the Democrats 47.0%.

    110th United States Congress – January 3, 2007, and January 3, 2009
    The Senate – January 3, 2007 – 48 (49) Democrats / 2 (1) Independent / 49 Republicans
    The Senate Democrats had a 50.5% to 49.5% majority (with Lieberman and the BlueDogs voting the GOP line)
    The numbers in the House fluctuates but the final voting share was Democrats 54.3% to the Republicans 45.7%.

    111th United States Congress – January 3, 2009, and January 3, 2011
    The Senate – January 3, 2009 – 58 Democrats / 2 Independent / 40 Republicans
    The Senate Democrats had a 60% to 40% majority (with Lieberman and the BlueDogs voting the GOP line)
    The numbers in the House fluctuates but the final voting share was Democrats 59.1% to the Republicans 40.9%.

    In the last 10 years:
    2 Congresses (106th / 109th) had a strong Republican majority. 4 years. 2 w/ D 2w/ R President
    3 Congresses (107th / 108th / 110th) were balanced. 6 years. 6 years w/ R President
    1 Congress (110th) has a strong Democrat majority. 9 MONTHS. 9 MONTHS w/ D President

    Like JD says (after looking at one graph) the numbers prove that this mess just HAS to be the Democrats fault… LOL

  • AustinRoth

    SteveK -

    Your bias seems to be causing you to lose your ability to read and comprehend, to the extent it was there to begin with.

    Your post makes no sense as a counter-point as you try to present it, as it only goes to support what JD said – that the times of real deficit reduction in recent history are during a Democratic President with a Republican Congress.

    How do you think showing Bush had a Republican Congress and making pithy remarks about it proves anything other than his point?

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    I am with you and JD on this one the “sweet spot” for fiscal discipline does seem to be Dem President with a Repub congress. Sadly I doubt that will happen until 2012 but I could be wrong. Though they will be just in time for what I expect to be a tax election, meaning regardless of who wins we will need to raise taxes the question will be how on who and what we can cut.

  • SteveK

    AustinRoth wrote: “Your bias seems to be causing you to lose your ability to read and comprehend, to the extent it was there to begin with.”

    AustinRoth -

    Your bias seems to have caused you to lose the ability to comprehend the fact that the President and the 111th Congress have only been in session for nine months. And you implication that “recent history” is only the last nine month is silly.

    Where was your concern when the republicans (and the George W Bush administration in particular) got us into this mess? Much of the trillions of current “wasteful spending” is the same military funding that Bush funded, the difference?.. President Obama put on the books where it belonged. From a surplus to a multitrillion dollar deficit in eight years of George Bush and all the republicans can say is “You've gotta quit blaming Bush.”

    It's embarrassing and it's shameful for the right expects all the economic problems caused by ten years of republican mismanagement and failure to be solved in nine months. And all the republican minority seems to be doing is exacerbating the problem with divisive tactics.

    “to the extent it was there to begin with” eh Austin? You're starting to sound like jwest.

  • DLS

    They sure seemed to be ignorant of the spending (and of new taxes) when it comes to the House health care “reform” legislation.

    I'd snicker but it's a sickening joke on Americans as well as on America.

  • ProfElwood

    “Where was your concern when the republicans (and the George W Bush administration in particular) got us into this mess? …”

    You've already forgetting the flurry of calls and letters to congress at that time? Or maybe you're thinking that Bush was popular and that mainstream Republicans were cheering him on? I remember the MSM screaming at the top of its lungs that it was desperately needed or we would all die, and both presidential candidates practically falling over each other to get back to congress first so that they could get it passed, but not the people. Of course, Bush was on his way out, so there wasn't much anyone could do to him, but I know a lot of people were relieved (temporarily) when congress first rejected the bailouts.

    I know this isn't going sit well with many of you, but domestically, Obama seems to be just a continuation of Bush.

  • AustinRoth

    SteveK -

    You are grasping at straws, misrepresentation and outright lies rather than just saying 'I misread the meaning of JD's post.'

    That tells us a lot about your lack of character. I have in the past when shown to be wrong or having misinterpreted someone's words been more than willing to admit it.

    Man up, dude.

  • SteveK

    comment read

  • SteveK

    To clear up the confusion some in this thread are having about my reply to your reply.

    The last sentence of your comment:

    The ghost of Bush can no longer be blamed when it is THEIR votes that cause the debt to go higher.

    Is what I was addressing.

  • JeffersonDavis

    SteveK…..

    I have to agree with AustinRoth that you did not, in fact, refute the claim I made about the deficit being turned around and reduced only at times during Democratic Presidents and Republican Congresses.

    For some reason you went into damage control mode to protect your beloved party. I wasn't even slamming democrats. You ought to know by now that I am a democrat. I was merely pointing out trends.

    Austin is also correct that the Congress controls the purse strings. However…. The President WRITES the budget. It is only approved by Congress. My main point is that the government works well with a Democratic President and a Republican Congress. They compliment each other.

    Regardless, when one party controls both branches – things get out of hand. Something tells me that you agreed with that in 2001 when Repubs controlled it all. Something also tells me that you don't hold the same candle up to the Democrats now, however.

    You really should. This ain't about party. It should NEVER be about party.