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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

How Democrats Need You to Misunderstand ‘Deficit’ and ‘Debt’



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Apparently the Democrats’ new dodge on the runaway national debt is to claim that the deficit is going down.

This argument relies on the public not knowing the difference between the deficit and the debt.

The deficit is a one-year figure– how much money we spent in the past year, after we had spent every last cent that came in through taxes, fees, fines, and other payments to the government. Last year it was $1.1 trillion; this year we’re supposed to be breaking out the party hats because it might be “only” $900 billion or so.

The debt is the total amount we owe, based on all of the annual deficits adding up, year after year. That figure is $16.7 trillion – $16,708,225,460,175.14, if you want the precise figure.

Looking at the inflation-adjusted numbers for our annual deficit, year by year . . . $500 billion used to be considered a really big annual deficit. We hit that in 2004; unadjusted for inflation, it came in at $413 billion. Back in 1991, the year’s deficit came in at $453 billion. So a half a trillion was the pre-Obama all-time high.

Now look at the Obama era:

2009: $1.5 trillion

2010: $1.36 trillion

2011: $1.32 trillion

2012: $1.1 trillion

In other words, the best Obama has done is twice as bad as it’s ever been.

Sure, some of this is because tax payments are down as the Great Recession stretches on and on… but a lot of it is because the federal government went on a spending spree starting with TARP and the stimulus, a spree that has only slowed slightly.

But Sen. Dick Durbin and other Democrats will continue to cry, “The deficit is going down, all is well! All is well!”


Tags: Debt , Deficit , Democrats


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