In the time of Bush, Republicans were recklessly profligate with new spending, and blithely unconcerned with financing that spending. That’s why one of the most enduring footprints Bush left for posterity as he trampled the economy is the slew of records he set with the national debt. Records like “Largest increase in a single year’ or “Largest increase presided over by a single president” or “Highest level ever achieved without really trying”, which he not only set, but went on to break year after year:
Let’s see, when George Bush swaggered into office on January 20, 2001, he inherited a national debt of $5.73 trillion. Thanks to what he still proudly describes as his prudent fiscal stewardship, the national debt he bequeathed to Obama by the time he fled with his tail between his legs on January 20, 2009 was $10.63 trillion.
The three biggest contributors to this colossal increase were:
(Lest there be any doubt, et al includes not just the rocket scientists and brain surgeons — and voodoo doctors — who presided over the economy in the time of Bush but the entire phalanx of Republicans in Congress, who were delighted to march in lockstep to Bush’s economic-policy tune.)
Here’s how Bruce Bartlett described Medicare part D in a Forbes article last November. (An article titled “Republican Deficit Hypocrisy.”)
Just to be clear, the Medicare drug benefit was a pure giveaway with a gross cost greater than either the House or Senate health reform bills how being considered. Together the new bills would cost roughly $900 billion over the next 10 years, while Medicare Part D will cost $1 trillion.
Moreover, there is a critical distinction–the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers; 100% of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit, whereas the health reform measures now being debated will be paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, adding nothing to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
(Bartlett, of course, is a renegade Republican who “was a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and was a treasury official under President George H.W. Bush.”)
None of this, of course, presented the least impediment to Republicans — who obviously have a march-in-lockstep gene — vigorously attacking the various proposed healthcare reform bills as being recklessly profligate and fiscally irresponsible, and so they have done so throughout the healthcare debate. Even though the one thing all these various versions of the bill had in common was that healthcare reform was not only fully paid for, but it would actually cause a significant reduction in the deficit over time. As certified by the widely respected and non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Uncharacteristically, even the mainstream media has noticed that the same Republicans who looked into their hearts and found it fiscally responsible to unanimously support the totally unfunded, deficit-busting Medicare part D plan now find the fully-funded deficit-reducing helthcare reform bills to be fiscally irresponsible.
Even more uncharacteristically, the AP set out to confront Republicans on the issue. With predictably hilarious results.
In a nutshell, here’s now Republicans rationalize their flagrant inconsistency:
Some Republicans say they don’t believe the CBO’s projections that the health care overhaul will pay for itself. As for their newfound worries about big government health expansions, they essentially say: That was then, this is now.
That’s pretty convenient. When the CBO’s analysis puts you in a double bind, just refuse to believe it. After all, this business of refusing to believe sound economic analysis was a hallmark of Bush’s economic policy (remember the favorite economic mantra of the Bush-men: “the economy is not in a recession”?)
But even if some Republicans have actually convinced themselves that the healthcare reform bill will not pay for itself, surely what they are saying is the healthcare reform bill will not fully pay for itself? Surely, not even a drowning Republican desperately clutching for a straw could convince himself that the healthcare reform bill will be like Medicare part D and not pay for itself at all?
And even if you convince yourself that healthcare reform will not pay for itself at all, you’re still in the position of bitterly opposing a major piece of healthcare legislation that is not paid for just years after fervently supporting a major piece of healthcare legislation that was not paid for. In that situation, is there really any meaningful difference between saying “That was then, this is now” or going “Go Cheney yourself, IOKIYAR”?
Several Senate Republicans distinguished themselves by the specific content of their responses to the AP
Orrin Hatch sheltered behind: “it was standard practice not to pay for things” six years ago. Brilliant, huh? It was okay not to pay for Medicare part D, becuase back in those days we didn’t pay for anything. It’s okay, guys, we were totally consistent. And, besides, it is okay for Hatch to have voted for Medicare part D because it “has done a lot of good.” (As opposed to the widespread misery that will result from extending healthcare to tens of millions of Americans who currently lack health insurance?)
George Voinovich did allow that those who charge hypocrisy “can legitimately raise that issue.” But he defended his hypocrisy by saying the economy is in worse shape and Americans are more anxious. (Maybe Voinovich never heard this, but Bush is certified to have inherited a recession from Bill Clinton. In addition to inheriting the 9/11 attacks, that is.)
Then there’s Olympia Snowe, being imperially dismissive (and channeling Obama at the same time): “Dredging up history is not the way to move forward.” (She did dredge up enough history, though, to point out that she had fought to try and offset some of the Bush tax cuts.) She also invoked what can only be described as climate change:
The political situation is different now, Snowe said, because “we’re in a tough climate and people are angry and frustrated.”