The Democrats’ Deficit Blame Game

Are Republicans and the Tea Partiers really proposing to raise the deficit?

The people who have spent us into our greatest national debt in history are claiming, with practiced expressions of concern and dismay, that Republicans plan to double the deficit by letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire. It’s a deliberate misstatement of the facts.

The basis of the fable is a Congressional Budget Office report released last week. It concluded that letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year would increase the federal deficit by $3.9 trillion over the next decade – if federal spending continues at its current pace. That’s a huge if, which Democrats and liberal activists and journalists are ignoring on purpose.

Writing about the CBO report, Ezra Klein, the liberal Washington Post blogger, concluded, “Republicans and tea party candidates are both running campaigns based around concern for the deficit. But both, to my knowledge, support the single-largest increase in the deficit that anyone of either party has proposed in memory.”

Democrats have used that same spin on the campaign trail. In New Hampshire, where I live, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Paul Hodes, who as a representative voted for the Obama budget increases, the auto bailouts, the stimulus and Obamacare, is trying to paint his Republican opponent as a deficit-hiker because she supports extending all of the Bush tax cuts. He claims she would vote to double the federal deficit.

None of that is true. Indeed, anyone who reads Klein’s own Washington Post carefully would know that. The very lead of the Post’s Sept. 15th story on the CBO report read, “Even as they hammer Democrats for running up record budget deficits, Senate Republicans are rolling out a plan to permanently extend an array of expiring tax breaks that would deprive the Treasury of more than $4 trillion over the next decade, nearly doubling projected deficits over that period unless dramatic spending cuts are made.”

The Post reporter portrays the GOP in a negative light, but at least he gets the facts correct. The important phrase is “unless dramatic spending cuts are made.”

Klein, Hodes and others completely ignore the fact that Republican candidates for the House and Senate, and especially the Tea Party movement in general, universally advocate massive federal spending cuts. No Republican candidate for federal office this year that I’m aware of is saying Washington should extend the Bush tax cuts while also keeping federal spending going at the same rate President Obama and Nancy Pelosi have set. But that’s what would have to happen for the federal deficit to nearly double in 10 years, according to the CBO.

So when Klein writes that Republicans and Tea Party activists “support the single-largest increase in the deficit that anyone of either party has proposed in memory,” he is completely wrong. They don’t support it, and no one has proposed it. What they support, and have proposed, is extending the Bush tax cuts while simultaneously passing sharp reductions in the federal budget.

It’s easy to see why they don’t deal with this issue honestly. If they did, they wouldn’t be able to claim that Republicans want to double the federal deficit. Alas, Republicans have been slow to call them on this sleight of hand. They should do it loudly and often. If they don’t, they risk being falsely painted as advocates of further increasing the federal deficit going into an election in which the deficit is a major concern. Sure, it’s a good year for the GOP, but why let the left get away with a charge that is so easily refuted?

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.