In honor of President Obama’s recent $4 trillion dollar budget proposal, I thought I’d recap some of the ludicrous claims liberals have made over the last few years in support of Dear Leader’s cockamamie redistributionist schemes. We’re going to be hearing a lot of these specious justifications trotted out via social media over the next few weeks, so we need to be prepared to counter them.
Liberals have always had trouble using numbers, math, and calculations to quantify the effects of their economic policies over time, and no communications platform has made it easier for them to spread their ignorance than social media.
Recall the graph Nancy Pelosi’s office released a few years ago showing that Obama was the stingiest spender in recent presidential history. Despite the fact that liberals love government spending and should have been aghast by this news, they were ecstatic that their profligate president could claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility—and they had an actual graph to prove it!
Then conservatives who knew such a graph could not possibly be accurate started digging into the numbers and revealed that Pelosi’s graph had accidentally counted Obama’s entire first year of spending as Bush’s. PolitiFact rated the graph “Pants on Fire,” and Pelosi’s office retracted it, though liberals continue to pass it around.
About a year later, another graph made the social media rounds showing that Obama had slowed the growth of spending more than any president in recent history—and in fact reversed it.
Then analysts such as John Lott looked at the data and realized that its author had counted Obama’s first year of spending as Bush’s again—this time intentionally. This sleight-of-hand was justified via the ludicrous premise that Bush had set in stone the budget for Obama’s first 12 months in office, from which Obama could and did not swerve one inch (never mind that little $1 trillion stimulus bill, Cash for Clunkers, etc.).
The new graph also failed to acknowledge that the only reason Obama had “slowed” spending—after his first, uncounted year—is because he had set such a new, exorbitant spending baseline in 2009 that any level he reached after that couldn’t top his first year.
Another graph shows how military spending outstrips health, education, and all other federal spending categories. A chart on the site Democratic Underground labeled “What Our Tax Dollars Pay For” shows three icons—a tiny prescription bottle, a miniature house, and a teensy book—overshadowed by an enormous missile. The three small icons are labeled Health, Housing, and Education, and the large icon is labeled Militarism & War. The graph shows that the federal government spends over $600 billion on Militarism & War and less than $100 billion on each of the other three categories.
Except that this graph documents only discretionary spending, not mandatory spending—the latter of which includes Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which consume a far larger chunk of the federal budget than the military.
One liberal meme titled “The Facts on Social Security”—which Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders recently referenced—claims “Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit or national debt.”
This ludicrous claim fails to distinguish between funded and unfunded liabilities. A funded liability involves the government saying, “We’re going to budget $1 billion for such-and-such entitlement for FY15. The program gets $1 billion—no more.” However you feel about the entitlement program in question, it can be budgeted for. The permanent version is, “We’ll budget $1 billion for this program every year, indexed for inflation, in perpetuity.” Again, this can be accounted for.
But an unfunded liability results when the government says, “We promise everyone such-and-such benefits—e.g., 60% of their income after retirement, 75% health insurance coverage, 90% of prescription drug costs—from now on, no matter how much the population grows, no matter how many people take advantage of these benefits, no matter how much these subsidies cost the government.” The cost of an unfunded entitlement is indeterminate; thus the entitlements can’t be budgeted for—and for this reason are more insidious than funded ones.
Amazingly, unfunded liabilities aren’t included in federal debt estimates, because we can’t predict precisely how gargantuan they will be. We know that the federal debt is about $16 trillion—but estimates that include unfunded liabilities are many times that amount, by some measures up to $100 trillion.
Saying Social Security doesn’t contribute to the federal debt is like saying you can eat a whole homemade cherry cheesecake for dessert every night and not gain weight, because the number of calories isn’t listed.
The natural endpoint of liberals realizing they can’t win arguments about spending, deficits, and debt using data has been for them to produce “theoretical” graphs showing how raising spending and taxes theoretically increases growth and employment.
Expect an increasingly desperate left to use more of the same discredited theories and assumptions in support of Obama’s mind-boggling new budget.
- Nancy Pelosi, strongly defending Obama agenda, may write a book on bad messaging (washingtonpost.com)
- Here’s the Humiliating Fact About Nancy Pelosi That She’d Rather Keep Secret (conservativetribune.com)
- Ann Kirkpatrick’s classic bait-and-switch (nrcc.org)
- Nancy Pelosi promises big government will deliver big paychecks for middle class (washingtontimes.com)
- Pelosi: Hillary Will Win White House and Be a Great President (hapblog.com)