The politics of hate and fear are still very much a part of the American political system I’m afraid.
September 7, 2010 First showing up back in February of this year on the website of a candidate for Congress was an article entitled “A Short Civics Lesson”. The article was highly critical of President Obama and his handling of the economic crisis now remembered as The Great Recession. It was rife with misinformation and distorted facts. Notwithstanding, the article has been copied and pasted both verbatim and with modifications to others’ blogs and websites since then, especially on those supporting the so-called Tea Party. Now this article is being circulated as an email with the addition of a deficit spending graph created by The Heritage Foundation, a think tank dedicated to promoting and justifying conservative policies.
Among the article’s claims are:
- that presidents aren’t responsible for budgets;
- that the House and Senate, when controlled by Democrats, bypassed the president to pass continuing resolutions;
- that President Bush constrained Congressional spending during his first year in office, and;
- that Barrack Obama was personally responsible for the deficit that he claims to have inherited from Bush.
Read the article for yourself if you’re interested at http://runningforcongress2010.blogspot.com/2010/02/short-civics-lesson.html.
There’s been a lot of this kind of thing going around, originated by people who sincerely believe that the ends justify the means. However, the “Short Civics Lesson” is most disingenuous.
Responding to the article’s first claim: Budgets do in fact start with the president then end up back on the president’s desk to be signed into law after Congress has had their way with them. Budgets are, in-effect, collaborative efforts. Yes, Congress always does send budgets (spending bills) back for the president’s signature considerably altered from what he asked for and they are usually ladened with pork. But Republican-controlled Congresses have historically been just as guilty of this as Democrat-controlled Congresses (see my earlier posting: Americans’ Political Persuasions ~ Based More on Myth than Facts).
Responding to the article’s second and third claims: It is not at all true that President Bush constrained spending by Democratically controlled Congresses. In fact, the graph included with the forwarded email neglected to include the off-budget spending during the Bush years for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tune of over $5 billion per month http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/wb/xp-25651. Democratic members of Congress actually cooperated with the president by approving a series of off-budget emergency appropriation requests to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The graph also shows projected deficit spending by the Obama White House assuming the Bush/Cheney tax cuts are made permanent.
In truth, the only president since Jimmy Carter to constrain out-of-control spending by Congress was Bill Clinton, as the following graph shows. But deficit spending during Obama’s first term has so far only been in response the recession, part of his administration’s expansionary fiscal policies which has included tax cuts and credits for most Americans.
The above graph was created using George W. Bush White House budget and spending data by Z-facts.com. It is contained in an article on-line at http://zfacts.com/p/318.html.
Now, a Short History Lesson in response the fourth claim in the Short Civics Lesson article: Many Republicans in both the House and Senate voted in favor of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to create the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to provide aid to banks and other financial institutions. John McCain voted for it as did Mitch McConnell. Indeed, on September 29, 2008, 65 House Republicans voted in favor of H.R. 3997, the original House vehicle for the act. After that legislation failed, on October 1, 2008, 34 Senate Republicans voted for H.R. 1424, the new vehicle for the act, and on October 3, 2008, 91 House Republicans voted for that bill. President Bush, a Republican, subsequently signed it into law.
So, the nation’s economic problems did begin long before Obama was elected and sworn-in. The fact that Obama voted for H.R. 1424 does not prove that he generated the mess he inherited. Governments during the Regan, Bush 1 and Bush 2 years did. Let’s have a little truth in advertising here, folks!
True, Democrats in Congress are facing an up-hill battle to retain control with latest polls showing an ever-increasing number of Americans disapproving of both Congress and of the president’s handling of the economy http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/. Thirty-three percent of those recently polled by CNN actually think the president’s handling of matters has made things worse. Why do they think this? Because of misinformation contained in this kind of political propaganda. The politics of hate and fear are still very much a part of the American political system I’m afraid.
Please feel free to post a comment whether pro or con.