Monday, January 9, 2023

During Trump's Presidency, the Deficit Ballooned and Congress Raised the Debt Ceiling Three Times

Now that House Republicans have finally elected a speaker, talk has turned to their agenda. It will likely come in three forms. The first is that they'll pass a lot of "show bills" that have no chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate - much less being signed by President Joe Biden. For example, first up will be an attempt to defund the addition of IRS agents passed by the last Congress.

The second item on the agenda will be a return to Benghazi-style committee "investigations" designed to hurt Biden and his administration - perhaps even lead to impeachment votes. 

What these two items have in common is that they continue to employ the performative politics that have come to define the current GOP. Nothing will actually be accomplished, but they'll allow the stars of the show to produce sound-bites for right wing media. 

The third item on the agenda is actually the one to be concerned about. House Republicans have made it pretty clear that they will refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless they get concessions on a reduction in federal spending - even though failure to raise the debt ceiling would trigger a global economic crisis. 

Much of the discussion about the GOP agenda has focused on this danger. What hasn't been addressed is how utterly hypocritical it is. You might remember that it was in 2011 that Republicans first tried to use the debt ceiling to hold the country hostage. 

As is now the case, they were demanding deep cuts in federal spending. That became a pattern during Obama's presidency. The claim was that the federal budget deficit was crippling the economy both now and for future generations. 

But then came the Trump presidency. Even before covid hit in 2020, here's what was happening:
The U.S. government’s budget deficit ballooned to nearly $1 trillion in 2019, the Treasury Department announced Friday, as the United States’ fiscal imbalance widened for a fourth consecutive year despite a sustained run of economic growth...

It is unusual for the government to run such a large budget deficit during a period of economic growth, because spending on unemployment and other benefits tends to contract and tax revenue often grows. But the White House and Congress have contributed to the deficit’s surge by enacting large spending increases and passing the 2017 tax cut law.
Of course the deficit ballooned exponentially when the pandemic hit - culminating in a familiar pattern: deficits go up under Republican presidents and down under Democratic presidents.

Republicans never expressed concern over the federal deficit during Trump's presidency. What is even more important to keep in mind is that, as the deficit ballooned during those four years, Congress raised the debt ceiling three times - with zero complaints/threats from Republicans. 

There are only two things that have changed since those years: (1) a Democrat was elected president in 2020, and (2) that Democratic president reduced the deficit by over $1 trillion.

Any Republican who sets their hair on fire over the federal deficit in the coming weeks should not just be challenged, but booted off the stage. It's all a sham. Now run and tell that!

1 comment:

  1. Terrific job of pointing out the Republican hypocrisy, not that it's news. And no question it's particularly relevant to real news, the unprecedented fight over a speaker. It also, I fear, should inform a closer look at the reaction of the rest of us to that fight.

    Again and again, moderates and leftists alike were chortling. It was hard to help it: the fight meant a division within the GOP, after years of the media narrative of Democrats in disarray, and that division seemed a sign of failure right then and, potentially failure to meet its goals in the future, and who wouldn't relish that? And the same stories appeared over and over again in both the Times and in blogs. At least two came up with the same "as you sow, so shall you reap" line! Still, I couldn't help feeling this was all wrong and feeling dispirited all the same.

    This was a division not between conservative and moderate Republicans, whoever they are. It was between conservative and wildly conservative, even nihilist Republicans, and it cemented the party's move to the extreme right. Concessions from McCarthy could only cement that. Besides, even without that, the party would have no trouble now uniting around the shared goals of pretending Biden scandals are real, blocking Democratic legislation, and making he and his party failures.

    One last bit of chortling, on Vox, was particularly telling. See, it said, now the GOP won't be able to pass a budget, neglecting its duty, everything will fall apart, and they'll be to blame. But wait: that means they won't be able to accomplish a Democrat objective. How damaging is that? How damaging would it be even if the public was able to attribute blame for a broken system on someone other than the supposed man in charge, the president? True, the GOP also won't be able to pass additional tax cuts exclusively for the wealthy, but they couldn't under a Democratic president and with a more or less Democratic Senate majority anyway. Even as people are starting to get the point that Biden was pretty darned effective (getting us through the pandemic with stimulus and not recession, finally delivering on his and Trump's promise of infrastructure, uniting Europe and America around the Ukraine, getting us out of Afghanistan without a huge freakout after all, watching inflation and gas price hikes go away), I'm afraid this will be a depressing two years ahead.


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