Crying ‘wolf’ when your dog bites

Published 2:54 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

Every dog lover and pet owner has at least a low level concern that their pet may someday find its teeth around the wrong leg.

We appreciate that our furry friends bark and protect us, but worry that they might misread that job just once and bite when a growl would have been best.

But conservatives don’t have this worry apparently … if their dog bites you they shout out “wolf” and point in the opposite direction.

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One of the latest conservative rhetorical acts has been their attempt to deny the fiscal insanity of the Bush days and claim they are fiscal conservatives. Fiscal conservatives who only re-discovered their conservatism after the election of President Barack Obama.

That’s fine. All of us have some degree of selective memory, and drawing a blank on their support of a past president who plunged a fiscally sound nation into crushing debt is the price of valuing political posture over reason and logic.

But these conservatives not only forget/deny their support for eight years of failed fiscal policy, they claim the excesses of that policy as the fault of the new president. A recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece made the claim that the 2009 federal budget doubles the national debt (it does not) and adds more debt than all previous presidents (not even remotely close.)

The truth is a great deal different than the conservatives’ argument and is a lot more of their dog biting us all in the leg than a wolf attacking innocents.

The New York Times analyzed data over a decade from the Congressional Budget Office to determine the cause of our current fiscal problems. What they found might not surprise you, but will apparently be news to our conservative friends, the fiscal “experts.”

At the end of the Clinton presidency it looked like budget surpluses were on the horizon for many years. The nation had rarely been in such a strong budget position. Eight years later that would be little more than a historical footnote.

What followed was a $2 trillion dollar swing in the budget by 2009, going from a projected surplus of $800 billion to a deficit of no less than $1.2 trillion.

How could that happen you ask? Well, not by Wolf attack.

The business cycle, that is, two recessions in the eight years of the Bush administration, accounted for over a third (37 percent) of the swing. The recession reduced anticipated treasury revenues and increased spending on social safety net programs.

Another third of the swing into deficit was caused by the Wall Street bail-out signed by President Bush, combined with the costs of his tax cuts and Medicare prescription drug program. These deficits also increased the annual cost of interest payments on the national debt.

President Obama has contributed about 20 percent to the deficit by extending Bush policies like the Iraq war, and by his own tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year.

Add the Bush Wall Street bailout to Mr. Obama because he supported it, and add about 7 percent for the cost of the February stimulus bill.

Then throw in 3 percent for Obama’s spending on health care, education, energy and other areas.

At the end of the assessment, fully 70 percent of our current deficit belongs to the Bush administration and is largely a continuing expense burden for the new administration.

Is it too much to ask our conservative fiscal geniuses to leash their dog, accept responsibility for its biting all of us in the butt and quit crying “wolf” when it was Rover (Bush) all along?

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.