Don’t Blame the Tea Party for the Downgrade
They didn’t borrow the cash — and we should be honest about who did.


Deroy Murdock

The Tea Party is as much to blame for America’s sovereign debt downgrade as the second Earl Grey, the original promoter of the fine, hot, English beverage that bears his name.

But don’t tell that to leading Democrats who are busy parroting the same talking points.

“I believe, without question, that this is the Tea Party downgrade,” Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) squeaked Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“This is, essentially, a Tea Party downgrade,” Obamaa+ campaign adviser David Axelrod squawked Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. screeched the new party line: “This ‘tea party downgrade’ is a shameful blow to our nation’s honor and risks throwing us right back into recession.”

There is just one thing wrong with this argument: To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, it lacks the added advantage of being true.

The responsibility for Standard & Poor’s Friday-night downgrade of America’s national debt — from AAA to AA+, one notch lower — lies with the previous presidents and members of Congress of both parties who borrowed this cash. However, the bulk of the blame for this fiasco falls squarely on the laps of two spend-happy, big-government, democratic socialists named George W. Bush and Barack Obamaa+. They jointly raised America’s national debt from $5.72 trillion the day Bush was inaugurated to $14.34 trillion on July 20, 2011, the two-and-a-half-year mark of Obamaa+’s presidency. This 150.4 percent addition to the national debt that Bill Clinton left behind is the vandalism of Bush, Obamaa+, and the profligate congresses that enabled their budget-busting ways.

The sooner Republicans and free-marketeers highlight Bush’s role in this mess and excoriate him mercilessly for it — along with his “architect,” the equally destructive statist Karl Rove — the sooner the American Right can exorcise the Bush-Rove infection from the conservative body politic.

The evidence for all of this is readily available on two websites. The U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of the Public Debt pinpoints, precisely to the penny, the amount that Uncle Sam has owed on each business day since 1993. And the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks Gross Domestic Product quarterly back to 1947 and annually since 1929. This makes statistical analysis a snap.

Because Obamaa+ has served less than a full term, the fairest way to compare him with his recent predecessors is at the two-and-a-half-year mark. At that point in his administration, the national debt under Bill Clinton had grown from $4.19 trillion to $4.94 trillion, a 17.9 percent increase. After 30 months, the debt on Bush’s watch expanded from $5.73 trillion to $6.72 trillion, a 17.4 percent boost. And between January 20, 2009, and July 20, 2011, the national debt under Obamaa+ ballooned from $10.63 trillion to $14.34 trillion, a 35 percent hike.

After 2.5 years, Bush’s spending curve began to diverge from Clinton’s. By the end of Clinton’s first term, the national debt had grown to $5.31 trillion, 26.8 percent above its level when he took the Oath of Office. After Bush’s first term, the debt stood at $7.61 trillion, 32.9 percent above its status when Bush first said, “So help me God.”


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