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Who To Blame For The Deficit?

The Times' David Leonhardt has a really helpful column today charting the swing from what, back in 2001, was projected to be an $800 billion surplus this year to what is in fact a $1.2 trillion deficit. According to Leohnardt's calculations, the deterioration of the economy accounts for 37 percent of the swing, polices enacted by Bush 33 percent, policies initiated by Bush but continued by Obama 20 percent, and policies that originate with Obama the final 10 percent (of which the stimulus accounts for 7 percentage points).

In fairness, the costs of presidential spending initiatives often start small before ballooning years later, a dynamic which obviously makes Obama look better in the comparison with Bush. On the other hand, not 9-to-1 better, not even close. Which is why you have to do a double-take when you read stories about Republican strategy, like the one in today's  Politico that begins: "Republicans on Capitol Hill think they’ve finally found Barack Obama’s Achilles’ heel: rising public concern about government spending and the federal deficit." I'm not saying it can't work--the American public has fallen for less honest attacks. But boy does it strain credulity if you know anything about the deficit.

Fortunately for the GOP, that doesn't appear to be a problem, at least not for the people they're trotting out to push this line. Here's Texas Sen. John Cornyn from the same Politico story: “This was not an inherited situation. This was a matter entirely of this administration’s and this Democratic leadership’s making." Hmmm.

--Noam Scheiber