Freedomnomics

Article published Thursday, April 5, 2012 at National Review Online.

Defending Fiscal Insanity

By John R. Lott, Jr.

In President Obama’s address to the Associated Press Luncheon on Wednesday, he claimed that he is preventing disaster. Republican congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget cuts would still allow publicly held debt to increase by $5.5 trillion over the next ten years, but to Obama, they mean Americans will be dying from starvation and defenseless from hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“Demagoguery” is not too strong of a word to describe Obama’s speech. Two million mothers and young children will be left without “access to healthy food.” Violent crime will soar and illegal aliens will flood across our borders because of cuts in law enforcement. “Hundreds of national parks” will close. We won’t be able to “protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food that we eat.” Airline flights will be cancelled or delayed, and safety will be threatened in parts of the country. “Weather forecasts would become less accurate.” Governors and mayors will “wait longer to order evacuations in the event of a hurricane.” The list went on and on.

Remember how Obama promised that the stimulus spending was going to be temporary. But now Obama tells Americans that not only can’t this spending be trimmed, it must be increased dramatically. When the Congressional Budget Office evaluated Obama’s 2013 budget proposal in March, it concluded that his new spending was going to add another $3.5 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years, a deficit that was already expected to be huge.

As a candidate, Obama claimed that one cause of the economic crisis was the large deficits the country was running, and he promised that he would fix things by cutting government spending. During the third presidential debate, just over two weeks before the election, Obama promised to rein in the budget deficit.

When debate moderator Bob Schieffer asked Obama what he was going to do about the deficit, Obama promised to cut it: “But there is no doubt that we’ve been living beyond our means and we’re going to have to make some adjustments. Now, what I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.”

Or take Obama’s promise in the second presidential debate: “Actually, I’m cutting more than I’m spending so that it will be a net spending cut.” Obama ran to the right of McCain, who Obama claimed was the candidate who was going to increase spending.

So what did we get? Obama racked up the largest inflation-adjusted increases ever in government spending and the largest deficits (even larger than those the U.S. ran in the worst part of World War II), and it is hard to remember that his constant theme during the presidential debates was “net spending cut.”

Obama blamed the bad economy during the fall of 2008 on Bush’s profligate spending habits. Bush’s out-of-control spending, Obama pointed out, had caused the $500 billion expected deficit for 2009. He blamed the spending increases and deficits under Bush for the economic problems we were facing.

Just one week after the election, Obama began talking about up to a $500 billion stimulus. Two weeks after the election, Larry Summers told the Associated Press that the amount should be between $500 billion and $700 billion. In the end, it turned out to be $825 billion. Then there were four other jobs bills during the first two years of his administration.

There was no new economic announcement in the week after the election that could explain this complete reversal in Obama’s policies. The only economics number released soon after the election was the November 7 unemployment report, showing that the unemployment rate had risen from 6.6 to 6.8 percent. Not good, but hardly a crisis by itself and definitely not worse than Obama’s constant claim during the campaign that the economy was suffering the worst financial crisis since the Depression.

The most obvious explanation for the big switch in Obama’s position is that he always wanted a much bigger government, but he knew that Americans wouldn’t vote for him if he openly campaigned on it. If there was ever any doubt that Obama had lied to Americans when he promised that an Obama administration would make government smaller, people just needed to listen to his speech on Wednesday.

John R. Lott Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. He is an economist and co-author of "Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future.".

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