According to politifact.com, Occupy Democrats is an advocacy group that was created to counterbalance the Tea Party and to give President Obama and other progressive Democrats a Congress that will work with them to grow the economy, create jobs, promote fairness, fight inequality, and get money out of politics. Occupy Democrats also has a Facebook page, and most of my liberal Facebook friends are fans of the page. It sounds good, doesn’t it?
Of course, I often see posts where my liberal FB friends have shared memes from the Occupy Democrats Facebook page, and those memes are almost always wrong about everything. Here is another example, and there will be several more to come over the next few days.
According to politifact.com, during the last four presidencies, deficits disappeared under one Democrat (Bill Clinton), went up under two Republicans (George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush) and traveled both up and down under one Democrat (Barak Obama). It’s actually a complicated story, but Occupy Democrats boiled it down into one graphic with five short lines.
- Bush Sr. handed Clinton a $269 billion budget deficit.
- Clinton handed Bush, Jr. a $127.3 billion surplus.
- Bush Jr. Handed Obama a $1.4 trillion deficit.
- But tell me again which is the party of fiscal responsibility?
Politifact asked the group’s founder and editor-in-chief, Omar Rivero to explain his numbers, and he offered a small correction. Rivero said that the number for the first President Bush should be a deficit of $255 billion or $14 billion less than stated. “A tiny error, really,” Rivero said. “We stand firmly by our meme and its implication that Democrats are better stewards of the debt.”
For this particular instance, Politifact focused on the claim that Bush, Jr. handed Obama a $1.4 billion deficit and Obama reduced Bush, Jr.’s deficit to just $492 billion.
Rivero said he picked the first year of a new president’s first term and relied on data from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Politifact used figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which runs an interactive database for this figure for the Federal Reserve, but the two were largely the same. Then they color coded the four presidencies and marked the years Rivero picked in red.
Politico indicated that in terms of reducing the deficit, Obama did a little better than the meme said. However, the federal fiscal year begins in October. A new president takes office in January and for the most part, typically operates under the budget he inherited. Thus, it’s reasonable to use the years that Rivero picked. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
2009: Not your typical year:
The great recession hit hard in 2008 and grew worse in 2009. In that period, the unemployment rate doubled from about 5% to 10%. With Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House, Washington passed a stimulus package that cost nearly $190 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That included over $100 billion in new spending and a somewhat smaller amount in tax cuts, about $79 billion in fiscal year 2009.
George W. Bush was not in office when those measures passed. So a more accurate number for the deficit he passed on might be closer to $1.2 trillion.
But Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group concerned by rising deficits, told PunditFact that the budget numbers don’t tell you much. It’s very difficult to untangle responsibility during those years.
In fiscal year 2009, you didn’t just have the stimulus, according to Ellis. Many of the fiscal decisions at the end of the Bush presidency were don’t in consultation with the president-elect, such as the Detroit auto bailout. Even with TARP, both campaigns were consulted.
Ellis is wary of what he calls snapshot comparisons because he doesn’t think they are fair to either president stepping down or the one taking over. They ignore too much context. Ellis noted that before deficits plummeted under Obama, they remained quite high. The Occupy Democrats post brushed past that fiscal reality.
The debt has increased more under President Obama so far than it did in the entirety of President Bush’s eight years, according to Ellis (and we all know that). Mr. Ellis also indicates that he doesn’t think that’s an accurate measure either, but it tells a different tale. Ellis feels that since Congress is really responsible for the budget, it’s always a little strange to blame the president for it.
Ellis noted that about two-thirds of all spending is mandatory, in the form of programs such as Social Security and Medicare. That said, according to the CBO, policy changes under George W. Bush, including tax cuts, the Iraq War, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and agricultural subsidies, greatly increased the deficits.
While Occupy Democrats said that George W. Bush handed Obama a $1.4 trillion deficit and Obama reduced Bush’s deficit to just $492 billion, the post picked certain years to back that up, and for those years, its numbers were accurate.
However, many factors complicate this simple-Simon picture. Bush did push policies that drove up the deficits, the federal response to the great recession was to some extent shared by Bush and Obama. While deficits have fallen under Obama, the claims brushes over that deficits remained above the trillion dollar mark for several years after Bush left office. Thus, Politifact rates this as Half True.
Note: The above information was provided by politifact.com.
Politifact, above, indicates that under President Bill Clinton, the deficit was reversed and turned into a surplus. This is true, but it took Speaker Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans, who were in the majority, to push through measures to allow this.
According to Ryan Dwyer, in an article in the Washington Times, in February 2010; while liberals, including President Barak Obama, love to say that President George W. Bush squandered the Clinton era budget surpluses and piled up deficits with expensive wars and tax cuts for the rich, the truth is that President Bush’s deficits were the product of spending, not tax cuts.
Mr. Dwyer quotes Stephen Moore’s (Wall Street Journal) book, The End of Prosperity,” which indicates that Mr. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts failed to revive an economy still staggering from the bursting of the dot-com bubble. Mr. Bush’s strategy had been to adopt a demand-side, Keynesian stimulus, hoping that putting a few extra dollars in Americans’ pockets would jump-start the economy through increased consumption. This approach faltered, not just because Americans opted to save their rebates, but because it neglected the importance of business investment to overall growth. The economy lagged and revenues stagnated.
In 2003, Mr. Bush cut the dividend and capital gains rates to 15 percent each and the economy responded. In two years, stocks rose 20 percent. In three years, $15 trillion of new wealth was created. The U.S. economy added 8 million new jobs from mid-2003 to early 2007, and the median household increased its wealth by $20,000 in real terms.
Dwyer further goes on to indicate that the real jolt for tax-cutting opponents was that the 03 Bush tax cuts also generated a massive increase in federal tax receipts. From 2004 to 2007, federal tax revenues increased by $785 billion, the largest four-year increase in American History. According to the Treasury Department, individual and corporate income tax receipts were up 40 percent in the three years following the Bush tax cuts. Furthermore, the “rich” paid an even higher percentage of the total tax burden than they had at any time in the previous 40 years.
Unfortunately, much of the increase in revenue resulting from the Bush tax cuts was offset by spending, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the Medicare prescription drug plan.
9/11 happened. What were we supposed to do? Bend over and say, “Thank you, may I have another?” Also, the Clinton administration called for regime change in Iraq and the Iraq war had supports from both Democrats and Republicans. See: Can Democrats be that Forgetful? Plus the Democrats were pushing the Medicare prescription drug plan.
President George W. Bush lowered taxes and revenue to the federal government increased while individual citizens prospered. For some of the spending, we had no choice, and Democrats were pushing for a Medicare prescription drug plan.
Taking into consideration, all of the above, I would rate this claim by Occupy Democrats as much too complex to draw any sort of conclusion. But remember, Occupy Democrats lies, tells half-truths, and takes things out of context. The above is no exception.