The drivers of the $16 trillion debt

Updated
The drivers of the $16 trillion debt
The drivers of the $16 trillion debt

According to the Treasury Department, the national debt has passed the $16 trillion mark, causing truly ridiculous finger waving from the same Republican officials largely responsible for the debt they pretend to care about.

Politico said the milestone represents “bad timing for Democrats” – the article didn’t say why – and Fox News’ Neil Cavuto went even further.

For those who can’t watch clips online, the Fox anchor said there’s “bipartisan blame” for the national debt, but quickly added, “[T]he lion’s share of this did accumulate under President Obama. And he has some ‘splining to do.”

I get the sense much of the political establishment buys into this narrative, which is why Republicans felt comfortable showing off a debt clock at their national convention without a hint of irony.

But it’s important to keep reality in mind. We know exactly what factors are driving the debt, and to say that “the lion’s share of this did accumulate under President Obama” is simply absurd.

We’re not talking about opinions here; we’re talking about facts.

And the facts, as we discussed last week, are incontrovertible.

Towards the end of President Clinton’s second term, debt clocks that had been established in various U.S. locations had to be shut down – the deficit had been eliminated and the clocks had never been set to run backwards. By the time Clinton left office in 2001, the nation not only had a large surplus, it was also on track to pay off the entirety of its debt – roughly $5 trillion at the time – by the end of the decade.

Then the Bush/Cheney era happened. Republicans took a massive surplus and turned it into an even more massive deficit, adding the costs of two wars, two tax cuts, Medicare expansion, and a Wall Street bailout to the national charge card.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) later referred to the Bush/Cheney era as a time in which Republicans decided “it was standard practice not to pay for things.” In just eight years, GOP policymakers added $5 trillion to the debt in eight years.

Under Obama, deficit reduction has been less of a priority – dealing with an economic crisis, thankfully, was deemed far more important – but the president has nevertheless cut the deficit by $200 billion and unveiled a balanced plan to cut the debt by $4 trillion over the next decade.

But the key takeaway here is that it’s Republican policies, not the president’s agenda, that’s driving the national debt now and into the future.

It’s against this backdrop that the Romney-Ryan ticket intends to pass trillions in additional tax cuts, increase defense spending, increase entitlement spending, and destroy health care reform, a move that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt.

Obama “has some ‘splining to do”? Can we at least try to pretend reality matters?

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The drivers of the $16 trillion debt

Updated