Hypocrisy might be a strong word, but that’s exactly what it is. Republicans have trumpeted the virtue of fiscal responsibility all the while spending our tax dollars like drunken sailors on shore leave.
Wednesday night gave us our first chance to see what punches presidential hopeful Gov. Mitt Romney would pull onstage versus President Obama. Predictably, he wanted to talk about taxes and the deficit. Even more predictably he charged President Obama with being responsible for the fiscal hole that the Republican Party has dug over the past 10 years. Let me be clear. The Republican Party is trying to blame the black man for their glaring faults, namely, the inability to do basic budgeting.
The deficit can be summed up in two parts: war and tax policy. That is it.
Despite the bloviating about welfare programs, the social safety net, and public education, the numbers from the Office of Tax Analysis of the U.S. Department of the Treasury tell a vastly different story. A trillion dollars is a lot of money. Even for the 1%, right? 1.1 trillion dollars is what we spent on tax expenditures in 2011 – the revenue lost due to tax deductions, exemptions, credits, and preferential tax rates given to individuals, households and businesses. That’s an astonishing amount of money the government is essentially “giving back” – even more astonishing is the fact that the top 20% of households received 66% of those expenditures. A whopping 726 billion dollars.
Now, because we’re talking about math, it is obvious that 1.1 trillion dollars is well short of our total US national debt of 16 trillion dollars. But we’ve spent the same way that we did in 2011 for the past 10 years. Why do Democrats like to continue to blame Bush? Because his tax policies and the extension of those policies has cost $11,208,000,000,000 since 2001. In case you’re not good at counting zeroes, that is over 11 trillion dollars.
The amount we spend on tax expenditures – these government “give backs” – is so large, it is as stupendously difficult to comprehend as it is to comprehend why Mitt Romney has instead chosen to single out Sesame Street for cost-cutting measures. PBS will receive $445 million in Federal government money this year, or about 0.002% worth of all US national debt. Perhaps Mitt Romney should be a regular viewer of Sesame Street as he might learn some basic math skills by watching.
While you’re trying to recover from the shock of Republican tax policy prowess, I’m going to throw another big number out there. 4 trillion dollars. That is the amount that we’ve spent on securing oil reserves for Exxon, Shell and BP in Iraq, and playing hide-and-seek with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Costs of War project states, “The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed. For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid as of June 2011 are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.”
The big question is where did the money go?
It would be nothing short of blatant fabrication to claim that we have ‘re-built’ Iraq and Afghanistan. Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest nations. In addition, the estimated cost of our 4 trillion dollar war is 30 times the combined GDP of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011. This leads to the conclusion that the majority of the money is not finding its way into schools, roads, and hospitals in those countries, but into the pockets of war profiteers. Defense contractors and oil companies found themselves on the receiving end of the largest single transfer of wealth in world history. Courtesy of the labor of working class Americans.
So if Mitt wants to talk about deficits we can start here.
Our entire deficit can be summed up by the two disasters that the Republican Party has pushed over the last 10 years. Tax cuts and war. That is the deficit. 15.2 trillion dollars; nearly our entire national debt has been spent by the Republican Party in the last ten years. This is why we blame Bush. This is why we are afraid of Mitt Romney beating the war drum yet again over Iran. This is why we cannot afford another Republican in the White House.
[box type=”bio”] KIENAN MICK is a resident of the beautiful, lake filled Twin Cities. He has a degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota, and recently finished a MS in Applied Economics from the University of North Dakota. In his spare time, he enjoys amateur photography, nature hikes, and bird watching. His interests lie in “alternative” economic systems where the public, unions, and co-ops take a greater stake in our economy. [/box]