A Priceless (Or At Least Very, Very Expensive) Democratic View Of Debt

Real Clear Politics quotes a remarkable view of our debt problem by House Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D, Md) from CNBC’s Squawk Box yesterday:

MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA: Does the country have a spending problem sir? Does the country have a spending problem?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Does the country have a spending problem? The country has a paying for problem. We haven’t paid for what we bought, we haven’t paid for our tax cuts, we haven’t paid for war.

CARUSO-CABRERA: How about what we promised? Are we promising too much?

HOYER: Absolutely. If we don’t pay, we shouldn’t buy.

CARUSO-CABRERA: So how is that different than a spending problem?

HOYER: Well, we spent a lot of money when George Bush was president of the United States in the House and Senate were controlled by Republicans. We spent a lot of money. (Squawk Box, February 12, 2013)

And this guy speaks for the president’s party in the House, which controls (or is supposed to control) the nation’s purse strings! Worse, he actually speaks for the president himself: “‘At one point several weeks ago,’ [House Speaker John] Boehner told the Wall Street Journal, ‘the president said to me, “We don’t have a spending problem.”‘”

Take a look at this dramatic graph of national income (tax revenues) vs. spending from 1947 through 2012, noting particularly the dramatic gap that emerged when Obama became president. Here’s another one, from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, showing the same thing. (Query: why did the revenue/receipt lines begin to diverge so sharply in 2007, before the onset of the recession and before Obama ratcheted up federal spending? Good question; I’m glad you asked. The reason: that was the first year of spending under a Congress, elected in 2006, that had a new Democratic majority in both House and Senate.) Now take one more close look at that second graph. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out in his USA Today column,

Well, things did start to go south under Bush. But look at that graph more closely. In 2003, when we invaded Iraq (one of those “two wars on the credit card” that Obama likes to blame for the debt), and when we passed the Bush tax cuts (the other thing Obama likes to blame for the debt) revenue actually started to climb. The revenue and spending lines start to converge, and, as they head up to 2006 it actually looks as if the two might cross, with revenue outpacing spending.

That’s right, folks. Federal revenue actually increased after the Bush tax cuts and the deficit declined, despite the additional spending on Iraq. What happened to cause the revenue/receipts line to diverge so sharply beginning in 2007 and then dramatically after 2008? The Democrats happened.

Let’s now reduce those astronomical figures — $2.2 trillion in tax receipts, $3.6 trillion in federal spending — to individual terms. What President Obama and Democratic Minority Whip Hoyer are saying is that a family with an annual income of $22,000, with a current credit card bill of $36,000, with an accumulated debt of $160,000 on which it is paying interest, and with no plan to reduce the gap between its income and its spending does not have a spending problem.

It only has, in Hoyer’s quaint expression, “a paying for problem.” But not to worry: even if we did have a spending problem, it would all be George Bush’s fault.

Say What?