Why The Deficit Dominates DC Thinking

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Washington politicians are convinced that the public is demanding cuts in spending, even over creating jobs and restoring the economy. This pressure comes because much of the public believes that “Obama tripled the deficit.” This has been the right’s drumbeat for over a year and the public has not heard any response. You can barely turn on the radio or TV, or go on the Internet, or read the letters-to-the-editor in your local paper without hearing one or another form of this message repeated.

Fact: Bush’s 2009 budget-year deficit was $1.4 trillion. 2009 was President Bush’s last budget and included the Wall Street bailouts, unemployment benefits and other costs of the incoming recession, plus Iraq and Afghanistan. This massive deficit was just one more conservative failure.

But the right’s propaganda campaign telling the public that this was Obama’s deficit, not Bush’s has gone unanswered. The Obama administration and their allies are not reaching the public with the truth or any message that counters the lies the right is putting out.

Charts that make it appear that the huge deficit was Obama’s doing are an example of how the public is being conned:

obama-deficit-slide

The well-funded Heritage Foundation is one leader of the effort to convince the public of this. Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures demonstrates an effort to mislead the public into blaming Obama for Bush’s massive deficits.

FOX News had this headline: Obama Triples Budget Deficit to $1.4 Trillion (they have since changed the headline but here is it as it appeared:)

fox nation clip

On the radio the drumbeat continues with people like Rush Limbaugh, saying, President Obama Lies About His Massive Deficits and Tax Increases,

People are fed up with this spending. They’re scared to death of it. They know full well what it portends. It portends massive tax increases for years on us, our kids and grandkids. It weakens the country. This is just an abomination. Nine years ago we were attacked. Barack Obama cannot tell the truth. Constitutionally, he’s not capable of telling the truth. He has increased the deficit, not by twice, not by three times, but by four times… Last year’s deficit surged to $1.42 trillion, more than three times the record of the previous year. An imbalance of $454.8 billion in 2008. So Bush’s last year budget deficit was $454.8 billion. Obama’s budget deficit last year was $1.42 trillion. That’s nearly $1 trillion more that he added to it in fiscal 2009.

Here is Sean Hannity claiming Obama “quadrupled the deficit”,

This is why the deficit dominates the agenda in DC. This dishonest propaganda campaign is the source of the political pressure to cut spending. Fine. What else would you expect from the right? It’s what they do. But why has this campaign gone unanswered? Why haven’t the forces allied with the President reached out with the facts? Why have they let themselves be put into this box?

A bigger question, why does the Obama administration still not seem to get it that this is what they do? The right has a coordinated, funded propaganda machine that just lies, and smears, belittles and humiliates people, makes the public afraid, stirs up division – even encourages sedition, all to get their way.

The right is well-funded because there is a monetary payoff to the big corporations and wealthy individuals who fund campaigns like this one. Their anti-government campaign is buying tax cuts, subsidies, deregulation or just non-enforcement of regulations, waivers or just lack of enforcement of anti-trust rules, military contracts, and a long list of other financial benefits.

Meanwhile people interested in democracy and good government are largely unfunded. They are largely shut out of TV and radio. For example, you rarely see a representative of labor on TV, radio or in the news. Bloggers reach a lot of people, but nothing like the talk radio/TV empire of the right. So how can we do this better?
We will be talking about this Tuesday afternoon at the Americas Future Now conference session, Can Bloggers Bring Populism To The Potomac? with Digby, Sara Robinson, Zach Carter, Terrance Heath, RJ Eskow and myself.

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