"The Life of Julia" - Commentary

The Obama campaign released an interactive chart today called “The Life of Julia,” which purports to show “how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime – and how Mitt Romney would change her story.”

We first see the fictional cartoon Julia at age three, enjoying the Head Start program that Obama says he has “taken steps to improve.” Under Romney, we’re told, budget cuts to Head Start would result in 200,000 fewer slots per year for young children. Thanks to Obama’s birth control mandate, the 27-year-old Julia is able to “focus on her work rather than worry about her health.” Romney, on the other hand, supports legislation that would “place Julia’s health care decisions in the hands of her employer.”

The chart goes on to describe how Obama’s policies would help Julia and Romney’s would hurt her at various ages. As you can imagine, most of it is wildly dishonest. But instead of rebutting all the falsehoods, I’d rather take a look at how Obama’s policies would impact Julia throughout her life, based on another chart the White House released, buried within Obama’s FY13 budget proposal.

It’s the chart showing the trajectory of publicly held debt as a percentage of GDP if Obama’s FY13 budget was extended through 2084. And while it’s much more optimistic than the conservative estimates, it’s still not pretty:

Let’s catch up with Julia at her various ages and see how the publicly held debt will be doing at that point:

Age three: That’s this year, 2012. According to Obama’s chart, publicly held debt is roughly 80 percent of the GDP.

Age 17: It’s 2029, and publicly held debt is now nearly 90 percent of the GDP. Fortunately, Obama’s Race to the Top program means that Julia can “take the classes she needs to do well.” Unfortunately, both liberals and conservatives have blasted Race to the Top as a failure, and interest in refunding it has reportedly been dwindling.

Age 25 – It’s 2037, and publicly held debt as a percentage of GDP is now hovering around 100 percent. But the good news is that Julia’s personal debt burden will be reduced, as President Obama will keep interest low on student loans.

Age 37 – It’s 2049, and publicly held debt is now 130 percent of GDP. However, Obama says that Julia’s kindergarten-age son Zachary will still be able to take advantage of Race to the Top program. (Note also that even under the most generous circumstances, it has now been at least 33 years since President Obama’s last term in office).

Age 42 – It’s 2054, and publicly held debt is now 140 percent of the GDP.

Age 65 – It’s 2077, and publicly held debt is now 180 percent of the GDP. But Julia will still be covered by Medicare “as we know it,” at least if President Obama was reelected in 2012. That’s right, no Medicare reform for the next half-century, according to Obama.

Age 67 – It’s 2079, and publicly held debt is now 190 percent of the GDP. And thanks to President Obama’s 2012 reelection, Social Security is miraculously still solvent and unchanged.

Age 72 – Obama’s Life of Julia chart only shows us her life up until age 67. That’s too bad, since Julia hits a milestone around 2084, when publicly held debt will be just about 200 percent of the deficit – and rising.

We all know why debt will continue to careen out of control in the coming years. It’s entitlement spending, and even the White House acknowledges it in its FY13 budget. And yet Obama’s Life of Julia chart pretends that we can continue along the current path without fundamental changes. Instead, any reform proposals are demagogued as an attack on women’s health or children’s education.