Perrspectives - Bringing light to Darkness

Boehner Lies About Bush Tax Cuts and Deficits

June 12, 2010

"Reagan," Dick Cheney famously said in 2002, "proved deficits don't matter." Until, that is, a Democrat is in the White House. And it so was on Friday, when House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) insisted the Bush tax cuts did not help produce a hemorrhage of red ink from the U.S. Treasury. Of course, the national debt didn't just double during Bush's tenure. As it turns out, the Bush tax cut windfall for the wealthy accounted for almost half the budget deficits during his presidency and the lion's share over the next decade.
As The Hill reported Thursday, Rep. Boehner in his discussion of the deficit conveniently omitted mention of the Republican mismanagement which helped produce it. Claiming increased spending to fight the Bush recession is "scaring the hell out of the American people," Boehner wrongly declared:

"It's not the marginal tax rates ... that's not what led to the budget deficit. The revenue problem we have today is a result of what happened in the economic collapse some 18 months ago."

"We've seen over the last 30 years that lower marginal tax rates have led to a growing economy, more employment and more people paying taxes."

Leave aside for the moment that President Bush authored the worst eight-year economic record of any modern president or that John Boehner like other Republicans is trying to give the GOP credit for the Clinton boom (which also occurred during a time of higher tax rates. John Boehner's myth-making notwithstanding, it was precisely the Bush tax cuts which devastated the Treasury.
In 2001, as you may recall, George W. Bush inherited a federal budget in the black and CBO forecast for a $5.6 trillion surplus over 10 years. As The Hill noted Thursday:

In January 2001, before the Bush tax cuts were enacted, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected annual budget surpluses of approximately $800 billion between 2009 and 2012. The CBO now projects a $1.2 trillion annual deficit for those years and has also stated that the Bush tax cuts contributed to the budget deficit.

And how.
President George W. Bush quickly set about dismantling the progress made under Clinton. Bush's $1.4 trillion tax cut in 2001, followed by a second $550 billion round in 2003. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) detailed, those Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure.

Like Reagan and Stockman before him, Bush resorted to the rosy scenario to claim he would halve the budget deficit by 2009. Before the financial system meltdown last fall, Bush's deficit already reached $490 billion. (And even before the passage of the Wall Street bailout, Bush had presided over a $4 trillion increase in the national debt, a staggering 71% jump.) By January 2009, the mind-numbing deficit figure topped $1.2 trillion, forcing President Bush to raise the debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion. President Obama was exactly right when he chastised Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling during the House Republicans' disastrous meeting in January:

"Now, look, let's talk about the budget once again, because I'll go through it with you line by line. The fact of the matter is, is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. -- $1.3 [trillion.] So when you say that suddenly I've got a monthly budget that is higher than the -- a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by the Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true."

And as another recent CBPP analysis revealed, over the next 10 years, the Bush tax cuts will contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession - combined.

An AP chart of data from the Congress Budget Office showed the explosion of federal debt that will ensue if the Tea Baggers and their Republican allies get their way in making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

As David Leonhardt documented in the New York Times in last June, "President Obama's agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying." In a jaw-dropping chart illustrating how today's trillion-dollar deficits were created, the Times concluded that even before the Bush recession commenced in December 2007, Dubya's dangerously irresponsible tax cuts and unfunded spending produced an ocean of red ink that dwarfed the impact of President Obama's stimulus and other spending programs:

"The economic growth under George W. Bush did not generate nearly enough tax revenue to pay for his agenda, which included tax cuts, the Iraq war, and Medicare prescription drug coverage."

And like most of the other Republican born-again deficit virgins, John Boehner voted for all of it. Of course, that didn't stop him from grandstanding in November that "Washington Democrats' so-called 'war on deficits' is about a year late and more than a trillion dollars short."
Then as now, you could tell John Boehner was lying because, as the old expression goes, his lips were moving.
UPDATE: Almost on cue, on Sunday John Boehner asked fellow Meet the Press guess Steny Hoyer (D-MD), "How long are you going to blame the Bush administration. Come on When is someone in Washington going to take responsibility for what they are in charge of?"

3 comments on “Boehner Lies About Bush Tax Cuts and Deficits”

  1. The CBO plays accounting tricks by calculating budget deficits and surpluses based on "public debt". But true budget deficits and surpluses are calculated with TOTAL debt. Using TOTAL debt there were no surpluses.
    Under Bush's tax cuts government revenues rose above inflation every year. Therefore Bush's tax cuts did not and will not cause deficits. Over spending causes deficits. Over spending caused the Reagan years deficits, the Clinton years deficits, the Bush years deficits, and Obama's massive increases in spending has also caused his deficits to balloon out of control.
    All of your charts are real puuurdy, but they are based on myths.

  2. Ed, lets not forget the economy failed, 2 wars were started, and Bush passed a massive spending bill - as well as cutting taxes. Unemployment is an automatic mechanism that was set in place. Just bc Obama has to pay out doesnt mean they are his. Also, dont forget that the bailouts are Bush's too. Lastly, Mr. Mythbuster, if you were president instead of Obama, no matter what you did, you would have nearly the same budget numbers, so you can quit with your holier than thou attitude. No one over here is buying it.

  3. @ ED- Felt someone should remind you that "the Clinton years 'deficits" you mention actually ended with a surplus. Now being as that obviously doesn't sync w/your personal politics, you've chosen to redefine how a deficit is calculated so that you could write your post with it's spin on reality. Nice try- but no sale.
    When comparing any two or more items, in order to come up with SOLID, Non-biased conclusions, one would be expected to compare on an "apples to apples" basis, which is what has been done. Whether you agree with the definition of the deficit is a whole entire issue in & of itself.
    You can NOT ignore the fact that HOWEVER you choose to define our current and past deficits- "total" or "public", when applying the math required to arrive at each, you will find that Bush policies UNDOUBTEDLY straddled the US with more debt than Clinton's. The ONLY thing that carried the US economy through the BushII years were the energy sector revenues, HUGE foreign weapons deals for the defense Industry, the Real Estate Rush coupled with next to free money in terms borrowing & MASSIVE Ponzi Schemes- All of which have blown up in our face- Tax cuts to the wealthy helping the economy, now THERE'S a MYTH! Look Around, it's not a "PUUURDY" one!


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

Follow Us

© 2004 - 
 Perrspectives. All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram