Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Whopper That Should Have Been Politifact's "Lie of the Year"

I don’t envy the journalists responsible for choosing Politifact’s “Lie of the Year.” Sifting through an entire year’s worth of remarks from the mouths of elected officials is undoubtedly a massive undertaking. I’m sure this year was no exception.

Then, once the “lie” in question is decided upon, Politifact’s editors must deal with the inevitable whining from the individual or group which propagated the winning “lie” in the first place and who now come forward to defend the original statement.

This year Politifact chose well.

As this year’s biggest whopper Politifact chose the patently false assertion, repeatedly made by Democratic politicians and liberal groups, that Republicans were going to “end Medicare” and that Republican policy proposals would reduce benefits to today’s senior citizens. By highlighting this falsehood Politifact brought attention to one of the great political lies, not just of the year, but of the last half century.

But as outrageous as it is, that particular lie--often accompanied by a video that shows an actor portraying Rep. Paul Ryan throwing a wheelchair bound grandmother off of a cliff--isn’t the one that should have received the “Lie of the Year” distinction.

The “award” should have been bestowed on the following statement by socialist Senator Bernie Sanders:

“This country does in fact have a serious deficit problem. But the reality is that the deficit was caused by two wars — unpaid for. It was caused by huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country. It was caused by a recession as result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And if those are the causes of the deficit, I will be damned if we’re going to balance the budget on backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor. That’s wrong.”

Sanders wasn’t the first leftist to promote this baseless theory, but his face is attached to a widely circulated internet meme featuring his quote, so for the purposes of this article we’re going to use him as the lie’s symbolic godfather.

In actuality, the lie that our soaring debt was caused by the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq really began with this New York Times chart and was soon adopted by the White House. It then rapidly became a standard liberal talking point and the basis for excusing away the rapid accumulation of debt under president Obama.

And why not? Over the last three years the Democratic Party has sustained itself almost exclusively using the big lie that all of our current problems stem from the actions of the prior administration. Why stray from this demonstrably successful formula?

Of course, the claim is totally bogus.

The reality is while there was a slight uptick in the debt immediately after George W. Bush entered office, the debt as a percentage of GDP remained remarkably stable for the majority of Bush’s two terms. It flat-lined at around 60% of GDP and stayed that way until the economic crisis hit in 2008. That’s pretty much the area the debt had remained since the presidency of George H.W. Bush. In fact, the Bush II debt level remained lower than the debt-to-GDP ratio that existed for the majority of Bill Clinton’s two terms in office.

Only when the financial crisis hit did the debt soar to nearly 80% of GDP. Both the Bush tax cuts and the War on Terror have been in effect since 2001. If the Left’s claims about the debt were true then we would have seen a steady increase in the debt as a percentage of GDP prior to the financial crisis. That didn’t happen.

The truth is that America’s newfound debt comes almost exclusively from the rapid decline in growth that came with the financial crash of 2008 as well as the implementation of TARP, the Obama stimulus, automatic spending increases that occur when more Americans qualify for government benefits and across-the-board, long-term spending increases generated by President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

But this accurate narrative didn’t fit the Democrats’ simplistic class warfare strategy. So they cherry-picked the two Bush-era policies they liked the least and pinned the bulk of the debt increase on the impact of those two policies.

Of course, if we’re going to use the Bernie Sanders standard, it would also be logical to claim that ANY government expenditure over a certain amount that occurred prior to the large debt increase was in fact responsible for the debt increase itself.

Why not blame the spike in the debt on the expenditures which are our nation’s largest to begin with? Those would be Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the annual interest of the debt itself. Every single one of these eats up a far greater chunk of government cash on an annual basis than ten years of the War on Terror or the Bush tax cuts. But that wouldn’t fit into the Left’s ‘blame it on the Republicans at all costs’ narrative, now would it?

Therefore, given that the debt has been the focus of the national political conversation over the last three years, THIS was the lie that Politifact’s editors should have labeled with the “Lie of the Year” distinction.

Awarding this dubious honor to the debt claim would have been particularly appropriate since it appears that the lie has worked.

According to polls by the Pew Research Center, those who blame our debt problem on the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan far outnumber those who blame the recession or the Obama Administration’s feckless spending increases.

Politifact deserves credit for finally calling out the Democrats for their perennial lies concerning Republican plans for reforming entitlements. But they really should have considered the debt lie fire, which has spread from the pants of one liberal to another over the past year.

- Dan Joseph

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