More than 30 months into the era of Obamanomics, the administration is still desperately seeking to blame all of the nation’s woes on George W. Bush. They’re getting less and less traction with that argument — Obama’s approval rating just hit a new low of 40%, according to Gallup’s tracking poll.
But Bush has been the go-to guy in Obama’s blame game since the beginning, and the administration keeps trying. Megan McArdle, a consistently insightful economics columnist for the Atlantic, dissects a chart published by the White House this week that purports to show that of the $12.7 trillion added to the national debt over the past decade, $7 trillion is attributable to the Bush administration, with only $1.4 trillion attributable to Obamanomics.
[T]his graph attributes decisions made by Obama and an all-Democratic Congress–like doubling down in Afghanistan–to Bush, while taking responsibility for basically nothing except the stimulus. When Obama extends the Bush tax cuts for the rich under pressure from Congressional Republicans, that disappears from his side of the ledger, because after all, he didn’t want to do it. When Bush enacts Medicare Part D under pressure from Congressional Democrats, the full cost is charged against his presidency. The list of such silliness goes on. Our president seems set to coin another presidential motto: “The duck starts here.”
McArdle answers with charts of her own, showing that the deficit, which never reached more than about 3% of GDP during the eight years of the Bush administration, has ballooned to 10% of GDP after less than three years of the Obama administration.
Nor is it exactly obvious to look at the $2.4 trillion in additional debt incurred during Bush’s eight-year presidency, and say that he is nonetheless actually responsible for $7 trillion of our current debt load–and then turn to the $3.1 trillion of debt incurred during Barack Obama’s three-year presidency, and declare that his policies are actually responsible for only $1.4 trillion.
Obama needs a new scapegoat, and the administration has been fitting the House Republicans for that suit. I worried three weeks ago that the Republicans — having forced Obama to concede that entitlement cuts are on the table — would hold out for no debt increase and get blamed for a government shutdown.
The GOP still could get blamed, of course — Newt Gingrich & Co. were blamed in 1994 even though Bill Clinton’s veto actually triggered the shutdown. But now the House Republicans have voted not once but twice to raise the debt ceiling, overruling the Tea Partiers among them.
K-Lo describes the path forward from here:
So what does the new path look like? This tweaked Budget Control Act will pass the House. The Senate will strip out the BBA language. It will pass the Senate. When it goes back to the House, Boehner loses some of his caucus again, but Pelosi will have to get some of her members on board. If this is such a crisis moment, Democrats are the party in power. Boehner negotiated with his caucus and got an imperfect bill that the Democratic Senate could work with — with a statement of principles in it including the BBA. Then the Democrats, who do run Washington, after all, will have to step up to the plate.
Ball’s in your court, Harry Reid and Barack Obama, in other words.
The Senate already has tabled the Boehner bill, but pressure to accept one of the two House plans may rise over the weekend, leading to the scenario K-Lo describes. Let’s hope so. Then the election can go back to being about the phony stimulus and the wildly unpopular Obamacare. Everybody knows who to blame for that.