Obama Brought Budget Deficit Political Problems Upon Himself

The deficit isn't Obama's fault, but he is to blame for the politics surrounding it.

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Paul Krugman is right: Sen. Mitch McConnell is either utterly disingenuous or economically innumerate when he claimed that, by the “last year of the Bush administration, the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 3.2 percent,” and then “conveniently lopped off” everything that happened after the 2008 collapse.

[See who gave the most to McConnell.]

I’ve said it here before, but it bears repeating: If John McCain had been elected president, the deficit picture would still look pretty much like it does today. It’s the economy, stupid.

But when Krugman gets, well, Krugmanesque—“They really do think we’re idiots”—I begin to lose sympathy.

Is it any wonder that the electorate has been a sucker for deficit demagoguery the last two years? True: President Obama is not to blame for the floor falling out from under our economy, and the resultant gaping hole in the federal budget. But it’s also true that the Obama administration has chosen to govern as though the deficit didn’t exist.

After the stimulus, there was a sort of brushing of the hands: “Okay, that’s done. Now let’s get back to regular programming—i.e., healthcare reform, Wall Street overhaul, cap-and-trade, etc.” [Check out our editorial cartoons on healthcare.]

It’s possible that historians will look back on this moment and see a steel-eyed president who knew that 1) his party’s congressional majority was temporary—and so moved quickly to enact a bold agenda—and 2) the only long-term solution for national indebtedness is robust economic growth and entitlement reform. But it’s undeniable that this boldness has, contemporaneously, given voters the impression of a president with a reckless disregard for the country’s finances.

These impressions matter. Politics matters. If Obama and co. don’t realize that, then, well, they must be idiots.

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