In a front-page story today, the San Francisco Chronicle warns that Obama’s budget “piles on $10 trillion” to the national debt in the next decade and that exploding deficits promise to derail his presidency. Reporter Carolyn Lockhead then quotes “experts” who blame the president, but effectively exonerate George W. Bush, even though the problem of soaring deficits began in his presidency and he left office with two expensive wars still raging and the nation mired in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Lockhead then completely misstates the facts surrounding a national deficit commission that Obama proposed with Republicans. She says Obama “joined Republicans in sabotaging” the commission “by creating a substitute commission by executive order.” But in truth Obama only used his executive order powers after Senate Republicans, who had supported the deficit commission idea, reversed course and helped vote it down so as not to give the president a political victory.
The story also downplays the difficult situation that Bush put Obama in. The Bush tax cuts, the steep recession, rising expenditures, and the two wars are generally regarded as the primary causes of the rising deficits. But Obama can’t just abandon either of the wars without Iraq and Afghanistan falling into chaos, and most economists agree that raising taxes and cutting spending during a recession are recipes for economic disaster.
In other words, we’re stuck with deficits for now, and Obama would be foolish to attempt sweeping changes to address them. Lockhead and the Chron should know that. But it seems they’re more interested in appeasing the right-wing tea-partiers who populate the newpaper’s website comments section.