After the historic midterm elections in 2010, when the GOP took control of the House on a wave of public concern over spending and debt, many believed President Obama would seize the moment as an opportunity to reach a long-term debt agreement. Instead, the opposite happened. Democrats savaged House Republicans for passing a budget with needed reforms and savings, at the same time refusing to lay out a credible plan of their own. It was a calculated and craven political strategy.
At the heart of this strategy was Jack Lew. As the president’s budget director he submitted to Congress the most dangerously irresponsible plan we’d ever seen, one panned by virtually every major editorial board in the country. Mr. Lew then launched a nationwide PR campaign designed to mislead the public about the budget that included false statements in congressional testimony. Most infamously, Mr. Lew claimed his plan “would not add to the debt” and defended this statement as “accurate” when testifying before the Budget Committee. But that plan, according to the White House’s own budget tables, would have added $13 trillion overall to the debt and never once had a deficit of less than $600 billion — with the deficits getting larger with time. In just ten years, mandatory spending would increase by more than 80 percent.
But the truth did not concern Mr. Lew. He had a public-relations campaign to execute. Consider just a few of his many egregious falsehoods:
“Our budget will get us, over the next several years, to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debt anymore; we’re spending money that we have each year, and then we can work on bringing down our national debt.”
“If we’re able to reduce the deficit to the point where we can pay for our spending and invest in the future, that is an enormous accomplishment. This budget has specific proposals that would do that.”
“It’s an accurate statement that our current spending will not be increasing the debt. . . . We’ve stopped spending money that we don’t have.”
It [the budget] takes real actions now so that between now and five years from now, we can get our deficit under control so that we can stabilize things so that we’re not adding to the debt anymore.”
“We also need to be honest: You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes.” (In fact, as the former Office of Management and Budget director surely knew, budgets only require a simple majority to pass. But he repeated the claim on multiple television interviews.)
By presenting a plan that deliberately ignored our nation’s debt problem — while falsely claiming that it did the opposite — the White House was able to cloud the issues, stall progress, and avoid any meaningful discussion of spending and entitlement reform. It also allowed them to spend two years on the political offensive while escaping responsibility.
Not only was Lew the architect of two failed budgets, but he was the point man in the White House for its campaign of financial deception. For instance, he was the budget director and was present when President Obama notoriously gave an address outlining a framework to save $4 trillion (a complete fantasy) while decrying Paul Ryan’s very real plan to save trillions as an attack upon the weak and vulnerable.
Mr. Lew, a man whose duty it was to present a truthful picture of the nation’s financial condition, did the opposite. He presented a false picture. No man serving in the White House has done more to scuttle the hopes of a meaningful long-term debt agreement than Jack Lew. To confirm him to the premier financial post in the country would be an acceptance of such tactics and is why it must not happen.
— Jeff Session represents Alabama in the United States Senate.