A Short Civics Lesson ~ Republican Claims Debunked

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:

  1. that presidents aren’t responsible for budgets;
  2. that the House and Senate, when controlled by Democrats, bypassed the president to pass continuing resolutions;
  3. that President Bush constrained Congressional spending during his first year in office, and;
  4. 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.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 11:55 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. At some point, Obama has to start taking responsibility for his actions and stop trying to blame everything on George Bush. He’s close to two years in office and with each passing day he “owns” more of the economy than he can palm off on Bush. The democrats have controlled congress since 1/1/2007 and what have they done to improve things? Since Obama took office they have passed more legislation to increase this country’s deficits to record levels – much higher than any Bush deficit. The “stimulus” bill hasn’t worked and there’s still billions of dollars in it that haven’t been spent. Unemployment is 9.6% now, when we were told that if the stimulus bill was passed unemployment wouldn’t get higher than 8%. The voting public has had enough of this out of control spending by the democrats (health care “reform” passed w/o a single republican vote – jammed down people’s throats)and come 11/2/2010 there’ll be a bunch of demos looking for work. But at least they’ll get extended unemployment benefits.

    Spare us the Obama/democrat hype – the people ain’t buyin’ it no mo….

    P.S. – Who is “opa?” Short for Oprah?

  2. I have heard Obama say over and over again that the responsibility for fixing the economy is his. So, why is his administration still blaming Bush? It’s politics and Obama is a politician with mid-term elections just a few weeks away. But Bush and his policies were, at least in part, responsible. The recession started on his watch after all. Allow me to explain. More on this below…

    Yes, Obama agreed with the majority of Senators on H.R.1424, which Bush, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke all said was absolutely necessary to avert a total collapse of our economy. Economists from the left and the right were all urging Congress to approve the measure. Senators McCain and McConnell were among others who voted for it along with Obama. But the emergency spending (TARP) to shore-up the banking and credit systems didn’t create the recession. Neither did Bush’s deficit spending to support Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts leading up to the crisis, which actually started back in 2007. The growing national debt during the last seven years of the Bush years did put us in a difficult position to respond to crisis though. This is because governments can only do one of two things or both to help economies when they take a plunge: increase spending and/or cut taxes. And Obama has done both. He is doing all that he can in this political environment with the minority party doing everything they can to thwart his efforts. The problem is that the “stimulus” spending has been coming by way of borrowing on top of years of previous borrowing. The borrowing was and continues to be necessary because revenues were less than government’s needs owing to the Bush tax cuts, tax cuts that overwhelmingly favored the very rich. No, in my humble opinion, it was the relaxation of lending and investment oversight measures and the rewarding of companies with tax credits even as they were cutting domestic jobs in favor of importing cheaper, foreign goods that did us in. This, by the way, is a large part of the problem we have now in putting folks back to work. It’s more profitable for large companies to let the Chinese and Indians make the stuff sold in WalMart which employs mostly minimum wage and part time workers. In all fairness to President Bush though, it should be pointed out that the relaxation of lending oversight regulations started under Carter’s tenure in the White House. Bush just embraced the idea of deregulation which was strongly advocated, and for years, by Alan Greenspan. Further, it was Bill Clinton who championed NAFTA and free trade agreements. But Democrats must distinguish themselves from the opposition in deference to historical accuracy.

    To learn more about me, visit my blog. But to answer your question, Opa is German for grandfather. It’s what most of my family call me.


  3. Thanks for your response – a lot of good information there.

    I’ve heard, but cannot independently verify without a bunch of research, that the start of the horrible recession we’re trying to dig out of is attributable in large part to the federal law that was passed (during Clinton’s administration I believe – with Barney Frank being a sponsor) that required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack to loosen up their requirements to obtain or back home loans which resulted in thousands of people getting loans they had no hope of ever repaying. Then, the Wall Street crowd (for lack of a better term) started wrapping up these mortgages in some form of security that could be sold to investors. When the loans started crashing, investors (AIG, etc.?) started losing their shirts and the whole house of cards came down. So, if as you say, Bush just embraced what came about under Clinton, why doesn’t Obama state that, “in all fairness to Bush” as you state? I think it’s a character flaw in Obama and runs contrary to his narcissistic nature. But as you state, there are numerous contributing factors to the situation we find ourselves in now.

    I think that had Obama put as much effort into jobs and the lousy economy as he did in health care “reform,” and done it in reverse order, he’d be riding pretty high right now and would have gotten health care reform passed with much less difficulty. One other little snippet, I don’t understand is why Obama wants to raise the capital gains tax when history has shown that when this tax is reduced, revenue increases (because businesses invest more and expand their operations?). He also likes to say that the country cannot afford to make permanent the Bush tax cuts to the most wealthy in this nation because we’d have to “borrow” money (sell Treasury bonds) to finance them. Why not cut expenditures elsewhere on wasteful projects to “pay for” these cuts? Maybe because such cuts in spending would go counter to what the democrats want to spend in order to keep their constituency support – i.e. labor unions?

    I find a lot of times Obama only tells part of the truth, the part that’s most useful to him and democrats, and fails to give the entire story or history of circumstances – pure politics, I guess.

    I also think that what galls a lot of Americans, and has been a major contributing factor to what the democrats are facing in November, is their complete disregard of the will of the public – e.g. health care reform. When the democrat majority in congress completely shuts out the will of the people and passes health care reform with NOT ONE republican vote, it shows (to me) utter contempt of the majority of the public by the majority in congress. They’re supposed to represent the will of the majority of the voters, despite their personal preferences, and a good number of them forgot that aspect of representative government. Come November 2nd, they may be painfully reminded of that simple concept. It could also result in some major sticks being thrown in the spokes of the health care reform law in terms of funding the implementation of the law. The party of “no” will then be able to say that they said “no” in response to the majority of the public on this massive program that the country literally cannot financially afford.

    Not being a German-speaking person, I didn’t know what Opa meant which is why I asked. I, too, am an Opa with 7 grandchildren. I hate to see what our generation is doing to them in terms of tax burdens they will inherit as a result of the democrat administration we’re now suffering under. How would you explain it to them?

  4. Well, my thought is that if Obama was for the bill then, why is he “blaming Bush” now? I would think that a real leader would not worry so much about fixing blame, but would rather concentrate on fixing the problem.

    My wife and I think that the government has gotten completely out of control and the federal government was the biggest cause of the problem to begin with (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Community Reinvestment Act, etc.)—e.g., see the Forbes article below

    P.S.—Noticed that you added “right-wing think tank” to the reference to the Heritage Foundation, but you did not add “left-wing editorialist” in reference to the article from the Roanoke paper that you included. I’m curious… do you ever add “left-wing” to the sources that you consider to be reliable?

  5. Why did I not include “left-wing” in my reference to the Roanoke paper? Good point, Lanny. I guess we all have our biases. I have deleted this pejorative.

    But to your first question… Why is Obama blaming Bush? I responded to this same question above for Curtis. It’s politics, Lanny, and birds of a feather must stick together. Obama can’t be blaming Democrats going into the mid-term elections just weeks away. Bush didn’t all by himself cause the recession. But Bush can be rightly blamed for setting us up for fiscal problems in government’s responding to the recession owing to his tax breaks overwhelmingly favoring the super rich and his deficit spending to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Besides, the recession did start on his watch, did it not?

    But the real causes of the recession predate Bush. It was Bill Clinton who occupied the White House before Bush who let himself be talked into championing NAFA and Free Trade by noted economists of the time (see the quoted words by John Maynard Keynes). Bye-bye good-paying manufacturing jobs for Americans. Going back even farther, It was Jimmy Carter, who for the best of intentions, signed into law The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act requiring banks to make it easier for middle and low-income families to buy homes . That original measure was embraced and nurtured by every subsequent president and every legislature, both Democrat and Republican, leading up to and including the Bush years, making the inevitable even more disastrous. He, on the advice of Alan Greenspan, thought that all these measures were good for America. But Greenspan, who later told Congress that he didn’t foresee the collapse of the subprime real-estate market as a consequence, is as much to blame for our current economic woes as anyone.

    Truth be known, there’s enough blame for almost everybody in Washington but Obama. He wasn’t even a junior U.S. Senator when these faux pas were committed. So I believe he deserves an opportunity to set things right. But it’s going to take more than just one or two years, and his job will be made all the more difficult with a Congress that will, for political reasons, resist his every effort.

    “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

    John Maynard Keynes

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