Commentary Magazine


Topic: policy solutions

Blaming Bush for the Deficit Is Getting Old

Megan McArdle nails Obama on his “blame Bush for everything” fetish, which has become all the more frequent as Obama ducks responsibility for a budget proposal that gushes red ink:

Listening to his defenders reminds me of those people who sit around whining about how their Dad was really distant and critical. … I mean, fine, you apparently had a rotten childhood, but Dad can’t get come and get you off the couch and find you a girlfriend and a better job. Girls and employers get really creeped out if they try.

Whatever George W. Bush did or did not do, he’s no longer in office, and doesn’t have the power to do a damn thing about the budget. Obama is the one who is president with the really humongous deficits. Deficits of the size Bush ran are basically sustainable indefinitely; deficits of the size that Obama is apparently planning to run, aren’t. If he doesn’t change those plans, he will be the one who led the government into fiscal crisis, even if changing them would be [sob!] politically difficult.

This, like so much of what Obama does, seems designed to get through the moment — a speech, an interview query, or a press conference. Why aren’t you doing something about the deficit? “Bush’s fault, Bush’s fault,” he squawks like a well-trained parrot. It is, of course, a line, not an answer. As Keith Hennessey points out in assessing the “blame Bush” mantra:

President Obama does not point out that his first major policy effort was to propose and enact an $862 B stimulus law without paying for it. (CBO has upped their estimate from the previous $787 B figure.) He did inherit a huge deficit, in large part resulting from the recession and bailout costs, and he immediately made it much bigger.

And, as Hennessey explains, Obama’s proposed policies would result in a far more calamitous fiscal situation than the one he inherited, including “a budget deficit this year of 8.3% of GDP, debt/GDP increasing from 64% now [rising to] to 77% in ten years; [and] the size of government, measured by both spending and taxes, climbing to historically high shares of GDP.” Nor does Obama have any plan (other than vilifying Rep. Paul Ryan) for addressing the growth of entitlement programs.

Obama’s excuse mongering is the telltale sign of a president who lacks his own policy solutions. Voters are not, I would suggest, going to buy the buck-passing — not from lawmakers on the ballot this year or from Obama in 2012. So he better come up with an answer and not an excuse if he intends ever to get that second term. For if he lacks the wherewithal to deal with problems on his watch, surely a challenger will come along with a fiscal game plan of his or her own. And I strongly suspect that blaming George W. Bush won’t be part of that plan.

Megan McArdle nails Obama on his “blame Bush for everything” fetish, which has become all the more frequent as Obama ducks responsibility for a budget proposal that gushes red ink:

Listening to his defenders reminds me of those people who sit around whining about how their Dad was really distant and critical. … I mean, fine, you apparently had a rotten childhood, but Dad can’t get come and get you off the couch and find you a girlfriend and a better job. Girls and employers get really creeped out if they try.

Whatever George W. Bush did or did not do, he’s no longer in office, and doesn’t have the power to do a damn thing about the budget. Obama is the one who is president with the really humongous deficits. Deficits of the size Bush ran are basically sustainable indefinitely; deficits of the size that Obama is apparently planning to run, aren’t. If he doesn’t change those plans, he will be the one who led the government into fiscal crisis, even if changing them would be [sob!] politically difficult.

This, like so much of what Obama does, seems designed to get through the moment — a speech, an interview query, or a press conference. Why aren’t you doing something about the deficit? “Bush’s fault, Bush’s fault,” he squawks like a well-trained parrot. It is, of course, a line, not an answer. As Keith Hennessey points out in assessing the “blame Bush” mantra:

President Obama does not point out that his first major policy effort was to propose and enact an $862 B stimulus law without paying for it. (CBO has upped their estimate from the previous $787 B figure.) He did inherit a huge deficit, in large part resulting from the recession and bailout costs, and he immediately made it much bigger.

And, as Hennessey explains, Obama’s proposed policies would result in a far more calamitous fiscal situation than the one he inherited, including “a budget deficit this year of 8.3% of GDP, debt/GDP increasing from 64% now [rising to] to 77% in ten years; [and] the size of government, measured by both spending and taxes, climbing to historically high shares of GDP.” Nor does Obama have any plan (other than vilifying Rep. Paul Ryan) for addressing the growth of entitlement programs.

Obama’s excuse mongering is the telltale sign of a president who lacks his own policy solutions. Voters are not, I would suggest, going to buy the buck-passing — not from lawmakers on the ballot this year or from Obama in 2012. So he better come up with an answer and not an excuse if he intends ever to get that second term. For if he lacks the wherewithal to deal with problems on his watch, surely a challenger will come along with a fiscal game plan of his or her own. And I strongly suspect that blaming George W. Bush won’t be part of that plan.

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