D is for Deficit Hawks

Monday night’s St. Rachel Maddow Show featured a couple of graphs that need wide distribution.

As background, an ABC/Washington Post poll found that the only category Barack Obama was deficient in among polled registered voters was on the issue of the deficit:

Romney, by this poll, has a three point advantage on “dealing with the federal budget deficit,” despite the fact that his proposals would actually increase the deficit. People just naturally think Republicans are better budget hawks than Democrats, I suppose.

But here is reality from St. Rachel:

That red chunk is the budget deficit inherited by President Obama. So, you can see that he has actually reduced the deficit since he’s been in office, despite Republican claims to the contrary and despite the economic travails we have been through that required a lot of government spending to keep the economy above water.

And here is a larger picture of Democratic performance vis-à-vis deficit spending:

There’s a lot of Republican red above the ZERO line in that graph, no? Democrats—you can believe your eyes—are far, far better stewards of the budget than Republicans.

And that will be true no matter how many lies Republicans tell voters.



  1. Duane, if the graph is so definitive and significant, which I believe it is, why then is the Democratic Party not putting it onto the front page of every newspaper in America? Hopefully, every Democrat who reviews this information will forward it on to everyone on their email list?


    • @ Gene Garman,

      I too saw Rachel’s charts last night. They are right as far as they go, and the worthy message is that the Democratic Party has been and will be more serious than their “conservative” adversaries about fiscal management. However, I think your comment unduly magnifies the significance of this particular piece of information. You could paste these “onto the front page of every newspaper in America” and the opposition would simply come up with different charts showing a different message, and the net result would be little political change.

      I see the problem as two-fold. First, the level of economic understanding in the country is very low. I’m betting the average voter on the street can not display a basic understanding of nor differentiate among the terms “deficit”, “debt”, and “debt to GDP ratio”. Secondly, while I believe the deficit absolutely must continue to be reduced, the far greater problem is the need for entitlement reform. The case for this was made very plainly and in stark terms in a Time Magazine article last June. It is a good one-page read, IMHO, and if I could paste something on the nation’s front pages it would be this article. I can’t really blame either political party for dissembling when the public is so ignorant.

      Nice to see you on this page, by the way. I hope you’ll stay around for discussions – your letters to the Globe are always interesting. – Jim Wheeler


    • Gene,

      I agree with Jim. Folks who are undecided at this point are largely undecided because they don’t know how to interpret what they see and hear, in my opinion. I think they believe it is all nonsense, which is an easy way to not do one’s homework. But journalists should be pointing out this stuff, too. They have a duty to report the facts and educate the public, in terms of politics and policies. But what they do too often is execute the safe and profitable “both sides do it” style of corporate-owned reporting.



  2. Unfortunately, the people who need to know this are not watching Rachel Maddow. The American public is frightfully uninformed. And if the republicans get more influence, either by Romney’s election or more representatives, they will further erode the public school system and American voters will be even more uninformed.


    • Helen,

      I agree with you. And one of the reasons that such a large number of Americans are uninformed (besides the fact that they don’t watch or read much news), is that journalists have failed to properly inform them. We forget that corporations control journalists and corporations want to make money and it is more difficult to make money and retain your journalistic bona fides by seeming to take sides. So, the “both sides do it” nonsense.

      You are right that only about a million viewers watch Rachel Maddow. Sean Hannity, on at the same time, gets about twice that many viewers (that in itself makes me mad), but most folks are watching Dancing With The Stars and other forms of entertainment. They just don’t want to deal with the effort needed to understand what is going on, and, as I said, when they do tune in, journalists play a “both sides do it” game of reporting, instead of pointing out, for instance, that one side is absolutely lying beyond anything anyone has seen in modern American politics.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  October 16, 2012

    As most of you may know, I became so frustrated over the economic debate that I decided to go back to college to gain a better understanding of the basics. It has helped me a lot and reinforces the difficulty finding ground “truth” in such matters. I won’t bore you with the details however.

    I have already written a couple of blogs using TEXT BOOK economics, equations and assumptions directly from a text book with no political spin attached. When I blogged using such tools commenters on this blog called it “voodo economics”. Well I don’t think a BASIC course in macro-economics straight out of a text book is “voodoism”.

    As for the Maddow approach above, face it. Anyone can “spin” economics using selective graphs or data. Most of you accused the author of the Bell Curve for doing so, just as an example. But after all the spin or selective use of data and assumptions associated with that data there is ONE CLEAR point.

    Obama has borrowed far more money to restore our economcy to prosperity than any other President has ever done. And such efforts have fallen short of even his own expectations not to mention the expectations of the country. NO ONE likes our economic conditions today.

    So the debate comes down to the “spin” provided by both sides as to which side can do better. I for one don’t have much trust in either side and believe we are in a long term tail spin, economically. Our conditions today, economically, are different from any seen before in our history and NO ONE has any quick solutions.

    the reason for such a pessimestic view is that number of economic variables in play today in our information age make predictions extraordinarily difficult to make for the future. Sure if you change ONE THING, like raising taxes slows economic growth, any student can make such predicitons. But when all sorts of variables come into play simulaneously, well I don’t see anyone able to make a lot of sense, economically. Too many things are changing and they are changing at the speed of light today. Our “science” in such conditions has yet to catch up as well.

    Here is a nugget for you. Keynes ASSUMED that our economy was a “closed economy” with no foreign influence considered in his 1936 new theories countering classical economic theories. Well Keynes did not envision a “flat world” in 1936 but we have such “in our face” today. Inject “foreign influence” into Keynesian theories and I am learning that they fall apart, as just an example, today. And again that is not politics, it is “text book” economics.



    • Anson,

      If you wouldn’t mind asking your Economics Professor a couple of basic questions, we might both benefit from the answers.

      1. is there a list of countries whose economies have recovered from a major recession or depression by imposing austerity measures; e.g., making substantial cuts in spending?

      2. is there a direct correlation between reducing income taxes (individual and corporate) and creating new jobs? If so, then what are some some historical examples?

      3. Is the cause of the snail’s pace growth of our GDP these days due more to a leveling out of productivity, where jobs are not keeping pace with population growth, where there are fewer technological advances to increase output, and where jobs are being expatriated to other countries? Or is this slow growth due more to the flat demand for goods and services from the middle class resulting from unemployment and a reduction of real wages?

      4. The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to record lows in hopes of spurring economic growth. But some think increasing rates would do more good. Peter Schiff, who successfully predicted the “bubble” two years before it happened, wrote on Forbes.com (September 4th,) that: “Because the Fed has kept interest rates too low for too long, Americans have saved too little and borrowed too much; consumed too much and produced too little; and imported too much and exported too little. Too much of our labor is devoted to the service sectors and not enough to goods production. Too much capital goes to Wall Street speculators and not enough to Main Street entrepreneurs. We built too many homes but not enough factories. We have developed too many shopping centers, and not enough natural resources.” Does your professor agree or disagree that interest rates should go up?

      5. Is the Republican position that “Government can’t create jobs” an accurate one? If it is, what would happen to the unemployment rate if government at all levels cut spending on employees and government contractors? Or, if that statement is wrong, then should the government actually increase spending for things like education and infrastructure; a kind of WPA 2.0?

      6. The federal debt is now just about 100% of GDP. However, Japan’s government debt is 225% of their GDP, yet it still hasn’t declared insolvency or defaulted on its debt payments. Is it, therefore, a cause for concern if our debt goes over the 100% level and, if so, how much more debt could be added before we could fall off the fiscal cliff?

      I would be interested in the answers to these pretty basic questions as I’m sure you the other readers of this blog would too. It may not change anybody’s mind on who to vote for, but at least it will be informative.



      p.s., I’ll be out of the country beginning this Friday, the 19th, and won’t be back until the 29th. So, I may not be able to respond, if I even need to, until then.


      • Herb,

        Outstanding and well thought out questions. I can’t wait for the “answers.” But I advise you to not hold your breath until you get them answered. You won’t make that overseas trip if you do.



        • Duane,

          I won’t have time to hold my breath as I will be otherwise occupied sitting on a beach somewhere on one of the Society Islands in the South Pacific, including Tahiti and Bora Bora, sipping on some sort of tropical (and presumably alcoholic) concoction with an umbrella sticking out of it, served by a topless islander. (I just wish the women were topless too!)

          But, I do expect answers when I get back. Unless, of course, I miss the plane and get stuck in Tahiti for an extended period, like, forever!



          • I’m jealous. And I am sure you can make your way to a beach where topless islanders also include, uh, women. I’ve got faith in you, even if I don’t have faith that you will get your answers. Drink at least one tropical concoction for me, as I toil away here in the reddest part of an increasingly reddening state.


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