In a recent column in The Christian Post, I discussed President Obama's "selective amnesia" in his State of the Union speech. His "Fix-It First" and "protect Americans abroad" proposals were simply rehashes of old campaign speeches (and since he's been campaigning almost non-stop for five years, he has plenty of material to work with.) I also talked of Obama's spending, and the $6 trillion (and counting) added to the national debt so far.
But am I right? Is the spending problem all Obama's fault?
One of those who commented on the original article was apoplectic over my statement that, "His own outlandish spending has added $6 trillion the debt, with deficits of over $1 trillion each year he has been in office thus far." They stated:
...as soon as you say that you out yourself as a liar and a political hack. The majority of that $6 trillion was added long before he got there, in fact by republicans who are now trying to blame him for it. Utter garbage.
If the conversation is about utter garbage, well, then yes, it would be (and is!) utter garbage to blame the $6 trillion all or mostly on former President George Bush.
Not exactly utter garbage, the commenter is right to the extent that spending is not the fault of the President alone. He didn't get to spend all of our cash in a vacuum. Far too often Congress empowered him. Worse than that, a large swath of the American people saw a value in it; selling out unborn generations to fund their ponzi-schemed free (or subsidized)-for-all.
The current national debt is $16 trillion. And yes, deficits (said in a more kitchen-table friendly way, overspending) have been over $1 trillion a year for the past four years. According to Reason, 79 percent of Americans say that government spending has reduced the quality of their lives, or has made no real impact on the quality of life in the United States.
Younger Americans see things differently. According to a study from the Panetta Institute, over 50 percent of college students think that government should be even more involved in economic matters: (emphasis mine)
Nearly two in three (65 percent) college students worry that government is getting too involved in the issue of morality while 33 percent say that government should do more to promote morality in society...However when it comes to economic matters, a slim majority of college students (54 percent) believe that we need a strong government to handle today's complex economic problems while 40 percent take the other side that states the free market can handle today's complex economic problems without government being involved. And the partisan unity dissipates on economic concerns as majorities of Democrats (68 percent) and independents (52 percent) agree that we need a strong government to handle economic problems while 63 percent of Republicans take the free market position.
These two studies show the sickening problem and the vicious disconnect between our economic reality and the indoctrinated economic fantasy. Since the re-election of President Obama, I have discussed on my radio program how it happened. I have said, repeatedly, that 60 million voters (which I refer to as 50 percent +1 of the American population, as a way of explaining the slim majority) now believe in the idea that "Government Should Do Something."
That means that regardless of the problem, 50 percent + 1 of Americans look to government for a solution. Said differently, more than half of America's voters want the federal government to take care of them. Turns out Julia is a real girl, after all!
Congress plays an important role in the profligate spending. As the Christian Science Monitor notes, "Between 2001 and 2011, increased discretionary spending amounted to about $3 trillion." That includes defense spending and Homeland security. It also includes Food Stamps. A record $80 billion was spent in FY2012 on the SNAP program.
Add on to this President Bush's TARP spending and President Obama's stimulus. TARP was, and continues to be, a horrific idea. Bush's quote, "I had to abandon free market principles in order to save the free market system," was not only ignorant, but also totally wrong. It's like saying you're going to run a marathon by going swimming.
And we haven't even begun to understand the full costs of Obamacare.
Most of these mega-programs were passed, at least in part, by Congress. Their continual unwillingness to confront the major issues, to kick the can down the road, to find more ways to demonize those who want to engage prudent, smart, sane fiscal policy is disheartening (and infuriating) to those of us who want to abandon these reckless concepts and fix the problems.
But elected officials are only representations of the electorate. Politics Is Downstream Of Culture. Politicians mostly do what their constituents want them to do, so as to earn their votes and stay in office. (This is a direct, and disastrous, consequence of the 17th Amendment.)
So, is the commenter correct? Well, to a point. Blaming America's spending problem solely on Obama isn't accurate. (It's also wrong to blame it all on Bush and Republicans. That is political hackery!) It would be fair to say that President Obama aligns with, and believes in, spending as a way of solving our economic woes. Obama and Keynes (and Krugman) are wrong. You cannot spend your way to prosperity.
But they are not alone. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to accept the idea that there is a spending problem:
"We have to recognize that, which cuts really help us and which cuts hurt our future? And cuts in education, scientific research and the rest are harmful, and they are what are affected by the sequestration," she said on "Fox News Sunday." "So, it is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem. We have a budget deficit problem that we have to address."
Every cut is harmful to someone, somewhere. That doesn't mean that the cuts aren't needed and necessary. In education, we've seen that increased budgets do not equate to better-educated students. Pelosi employs the demonizing philosophy; those who want to cut her hand pick examples are "harmful."
Then again, Pelosi thinks members of Congress getting a pay cut would be an attack on their dignity. True story.
The real problem is not the politicians. The problem is a culture that demands instant gratification, an electorate that pressures Representatives to spend money we don't have, borrowing $.46 out of every dollar, calling anyone who proposes spending cuts "selfish" or worse.
The blame is theirs, and the blame is ours. We have allowed the culture to be hijacked and college students to be indoctrinated, and politicians to advance the "government is the solution to everything" agenda. For if it is the job for government to do "something," then, by definition, government must do "everything."