This post is mainly addressing the constant conflation of our “deficit(s)” and our “debt”. Everybody is doing this wrong, the Right and the Left, so let’s just get started. First, let’s look at the first two paragraph’s from President Obama’s prime time speech last night. (words highlighted in orange are my emphasis)
Good evening. Tonight, I want to talk about the debate we’ve been having in Washington over the national debt – a debate that directly affects the lives of all Americans.
For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card. -President Barack Obama (July 25th, 2011)
First off, did you notice that the President took two sentences to say “hi” to us and then went full throttle into “blame Bush” mode? Classy. Real “leader of the free world” type stuff…. But I digress… What I want to focus on is this constant conflation of the deficit and the debt.
A lot of people do not realize that even though we had a budget surplus in 2000, we still had over $5 Trillion of debt. I’ll be honest with you; as recently as 2008, I was one of the many people who was confused by this. I used to work three jobs and had no time to even sit down and watch the news. I basically read the front page of the paper back then and relied on the collective knowledge of my coworkers and friends (which turned out to be pretty shoddy). So in 2008, when people were clamoring for the good old days of Clinton and his magic surplus, I was under the impression we had no debt. I mean people were still pretty jazzed about it eight years later, so I figured the guy must have turned water into wine. Nope… All a budget surplus means is that for one lousy year, we didn’t spend more money than we took in. That’s all it means folks. (in fairness to Clinton, he had more than one lousy budget surplus)
With this understanding in mind, look at our current President’s second paragraph again and note how misleading it is:
…instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.
What’s highly misleading is that President Obama tries to make it sound like George W. Bush squandered TRILLIONS of dollars worth of surplus money, when in reality, it was a measly $230 Billion. That’s like me trying to pay my mortgage with some money I made from selling my Game Boy.
Basically, Bush 43 started his presidency with $230 Billion in the bank and a debt of $5 Trillion, but the Dems NEVER mention that last part… So it’s up to us to tell people. And then we need to explain that President Obama has added as much to our debt in ONE term as the first 42 presidents did together.
Democrats, need to quit misleading people on the deficit talks, and Republicans need to quit letting them. Up until now, y’all haven’t been doing it right.