|February 23, 2009: Obama Promised to Cut the Deficit by Half|
|BY TIMOTHY H. LEE |
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23 2012
The most damning indictments against Barack Obama as he furiously seeks reelection are his own false promises.
“That’s why today, I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.”
That categorical pledge occurred exactly three years ago this week, February 23, 2009.
That milestone also follows the three-year anniversary earlier this month of Obama’s assurance that, “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”
Well, Obama doesn’t “have this done” three years later. Rather than restore economic vigor as promised, trillions of new dollars in wasteful deficit spending primarily benefitted his well-connected supporters such as labor bosses and environmental extremists, and slowed our natural cyclical recovery. His administration promised that his policies would cap unemployment at 8% all the way back in October 2009, and be down to near 6% today. Instead, we’ve remained above that 8% mark for the most consecutive months since the government began keeping records in the 1940s.
And as for the deficit, Obama most certainly didn’t cut it in half. He multiplied it.
In 2008, the federal deficit stood at a retrospectively mild $455 billion. Today, Obama’s 2012 budget projects a deficit of $1.3 trillion, three times that 2008 level. That follows deficits of $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010 and another $1.3 trillion for 2011. Moreover, even Obama’s rose-colored deficit projection for 2013 reaches $901 billion – twice as much as the 2008 deficit, not half.
Keep in mind that in 2009, the Obama Administration projected that the 2012 deficit would be just $580 billion, so its 2013 expectation is hardly reliable.
Obama apologists ascribe the 2009 deficit to the Bush Administration, but that ignores several facts. Obama presided over two-thirds of that 2009 fiscal year, which included such items as his $800 billion failed “stimulus” spending, his counterproductive “Cash for Clunkers” program and the wasteful omnibus bill that included over 8,500 earmarks despite more false promises to end that practice. Accordingly, it’s not as though the 2009 budget was somehow set in stone or beyond any control for the candidate who claimed such omnipotent transformational status.
Moreover, the three consecutive deficits under Obama since 2009 have maintained unprecedented levels, proving that initial year wasn’t some sort of anomaly attributable to his all-purpose scapegoat George W. Bush.
Obama also offers the excuse that he simply had no understanding of the magnitude of the last recession, and that his spending somehow prevented another depression.
Those claims are also false. First, during the 2008 campaign, Obama characterized the nation’s economy in the most catastrophic terms, such as when he said, “This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century.” Well, the last recession wasn’t as pronounced as the early 1980s recession that Ronald Reagan’s pro-growth policies overcame, so if anything Obama was exaggerating the crisis before he was even elected.
During that same 2008 campaign Obama labeled deficit levels of the Bush era “unpatriotic.” If Bush deficits ranging between $157 billion and $413 billion (the largest Bush deficit at the time Obama leveled that charge) were “unpatriotic,” how might we characterize his own deficits? Criminal? Traitorous? Just wondering.
Second, economic data shows that we were already beginning to recover before Obama even took office, and certainly before any of his policies took effect. Gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic vitality, contracted 3.7% in the third quarter of 2008, and then 8.9% in the fourth. During the first quarter of 2009, however, it had already moderated to 6.7%, which improved to 0.7% in the second quarter. By the third quarter of 2009, before Obama had even been in office six months, the recession ended and returned to positive territory.
Thus, the economic “free fall” that Obama now attempts to portray in order to excuse his record is a myth. The V-shaped economic recovery was already underway.
There is one promise, however, that the Obama Administration remains on track to keep, one that touches upon a topic leading the headlines in recent weeks. In September 2008, Obama’s Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Almost four years later, gasoline prices have climbed from $1.85 when he was inaugurated to $3.61 today, a record high for the month of February.
Otherwise, however, the litany of Obama’s broken promises is long. We cannot change the damage inflicted over the past three years, but those promises provide the clearest standard by which Americans can evaluate his request for four more years.