The GOP’s Big Lies: Changes in the Deficit

Jeff MacNelly's Best Political Cartoon

Jeff MacNelly’s Best Political Cartoon

It’s National Tax Day. It seems appropriate to write about the deficit.

As long as WC has been paying attention to politics – more than 50 years now – a cornerstone of Republican economic policy has been the size of the federal deficit. Back in 2009, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decried the $787 billion stimulus as “one of the most expensive votes in history.” In 2013, shortly after Barack Obama’s second inauguration, McConnell made the case that lowering the national debt was essential if Americans wanted social spending programs to survive. “Only one thing can save this country, and that’s to get a handle on this deficit and debt issue,” McConnell said. “No action means the demise” of entitlement programs, he added. “We have to assure they will be there for future generations.”

Welcome to 2018. With the GOP in control of Congress and the Presidency, what have the Republicans done about the federal deficit? Why, they pushed through a gigantic, deficit-busting tax bill in November.  And a then a gigantic, deficit-busting two-year budget in February. The New York Times wrote, “It can now be said that Republican lawmakers care about the federal deficit only when they want to use it to bash Democratic presidents.”

House Speaker, Paul Ryan (R, Quitter), and the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R, Turtles) are both are self-proclaimed deficit hawks. “In this generation, a defining responsibility of government is to steer our nation clear of a debt crisis while there is still time,”  Ryan declared in 2012. And now these avowed deficit hawks through the combined Republican tax cuts and the budget have nearly doubled the federal deficit to $1.19 trillion in 2019.

The only surprise is that anyone thinks this is new. This has been the Republican practice for at least the last forty years.

Change in Deficit as % of GDP Since 1977 (Source: CBO Data)
President Deficit Change
George W. Bush +4.7%
Donald Trump +1.8%
Ronald Reagan +0.5%
George H. W. Bush +0.4%
Barack Obama -0.1%
Jimmy Carter -0.4%
Bill Clinton -5.0%

Plainly, the federal deficit is a financial bloody shirt, used by Republicans to inflame the electorate when the Republicans are out of power. And then when the Republicans are in power, they burn through money like a drunken sailor on shore leave.1

The federal deficit is a Republican problem: created, aggravated and worsened by Republicans. The claim that it is the responsibility of a Democratic Congress or a Democratic President is a lie. In fact, it’s the Big Lie fallacy: “a lie so ‘colossal’ that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”.

Don’t fall for it. This is a Republican Party problem, manipulated as skillfully as any Big Lie in American history.

The next step will be GOP demands that the deficit be reduced by removing “entitlements.” But that use of the Big Lie will be the subject of a future blog post.


  1. WC apologizes for offending any responsible sailors. It’s a simile.