Time’s Brief History of the Deficit: Reagan Tax Cuts Bad, Clinton Tax Hikes Good

The September 7 edition of Time magazine features a brief article up front on “A Brief History of the U.S. Deficit.” Writer Claire Suddath claims that the quadrupling of the deficit under Obama is somehow a good news/bad news story:

The good news is that the Obama Administration has scaled back its estimate of this year’s budget deficit to an estimated $1.58 trillion (down from $1.84 trillion in May). The bad news is that this is by far the largest budget shortfall in U.S. history — nearly $900 billion more than last year’s deficit — and it accounts for 11.2% of GDP, the largest percentage since 1945.

But the “brief history” really goes off the tracks when Suddath recycles every liberal Time magazine myth about fiscal policy in the last two decades of the 20th century:

President Ronald Reagan’s economic and foreign policies — tax cuts combined with substantial increases in Cold War-era defense spending — led to a string of deficits that averaged $206 billion a year between 1983 and 1992. An economic boom and increased tax revenue under President Bill Clinton reversed the trend, and in 1998 the U.S. notched its first budget surplus in nearly 20 years.

In the Reagan-Bush years, liberal reporters constantly suggested a partisan spin over fiscal fact: they claimed deficits were caused solely by Republican tax cuts and defense hikes – and completely omitted out the large domestic-spending increases coming from the Democratic spenders in the House majority. When the budget goes into balance in the Clinton years, Time makes no mention of the Republican balanced-budget pushers in the House majority. Fiscal policy is caused by presidents alone in their history book.

The online version of the Suddath article sounds a little less partisan — the print version is different — but it still strains the facts:

The balanced-budget acts of 1990 and 1997 helped reverse this unprecedented level of peacetime spending, and in 1998 the U.S. recorded its first budget surplus in nearly 20 years.

But when Suddath claims deficits averaged $206 billion from 1983 to 1992, she neglects to mention that Reagan’s last three budgets had lower deficit numbers ($149.8 billion in fiscal 1987, $155.2 in fiscal 1988, and $152.5 in fiscal 1989) than after the supposedly deficit-cutting Bush budget deal of 1990 (deficits went up to $269.5 in fiscal 1991, and $290.2 in fiscal 1992.) Federal outlays went up faster than tax revenues.

To put all that in perspective, Reagan’s last three annual budgets had lower deficits than some of the monthly deficits in fiscal 2009.

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VILLAGE IDIOTS

Fear this: “You need to back these congressmen and let them know you’re not going to let them be steamrollered by a bunch of people who have been frightened. Don’t let anybody tell you that President Obama wants to ration health care. We are rationing health care in America. I’m not a very good politician any more; I just say what I think. But I have been waiting for this for 40 years … to recreate the American dream.” –Bill Clinton

Cat out of the bag: “We need to pass a bill this year. Doing nothing is not only the worst thing we can do for the economy, it’s the worst thing we can do for the country. It’s also the worst thing we can do for the Democrats.” –Bill Clinton

Prophet of doom: “[This country has] a moral duty to pass health care reform. This year.” –Algore

Keen Sense of the Obvious: “Here is why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth.” –former DNC Chairman Howard Dean

Wrong victim: “Both a plane crash in Massachusetts in 1964 and the ugly automobile accident on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 almost cost [Ted Kennedy] his life.” –Kennedy sycophant Ted Sorensen, who apparently missed the fact that Kennedy’s passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, did lose her life. Indeed, Kennedy survived her by more than 40 years.

Wind beneath his wings: “Of course Barack Obama had the wings of hope and the winds of possibility behind him, but Ted Kennedy was an awful powerful gust of wind that gave him a necessary lift.” –Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson (“Gust of wind”? You got that right!)