One kind of responsibility is where individuals are accountable for their actions. If someone forges a name on a check they are entirely responsible, if they are of legal age. If someone steals your car they are responsible even if you left it unlocked with the keys inside. You might have an emotionally anxious parent or spouse who will read you the riot act for being irresponsible in the sense of being forgetful, but ultimately the only person reprehensible for stealing your car is the thief. The same is true of someone who steals your identity and runs up bills in your name. You are never reprehensible for those debts even though not paying them may damage your credit rating and cause some related problems. We’re not talking about anything particularly deep here. If you broke something when you were a kid your parents didn’t punish the kid next door. Kids start contriving lies around the age of four. What would a four-year old lie about. Trying not to take responsibility for something they know or at least suspect is wrong. Is Megan McArdle four? She might be eight. She is doing a lot of accountability deflection all at once. Trying to deflect blame from herself, her comrades, a political philosophy and an economic policy. What Caused The Deficit? A Reply To Megan McArdle
One of the most effective Republican themes of the last two years has been blaming President Obama for the explosive growth in the budget deficit since 2009. The accusation that “Obama’s spending binge” has blown up the deficit has discredited any further fiscal stimulus, and helped encourage Republicans to use the debt ceiling as a hostage. The White House fought back with a chart showing that its policy changes contributed only a small fraction to the worsening deficit picture:
Megan McArdle dismissively responds, “The duck starts here.” Her rebuttals are extraordinarily weak. McArdle begins:
this graph attributes decisions made by Obama and an all-Democratic Congress–like doubling down in Afghanistan–to Bush, while taking responsibility for basically nothing except the stimulus. When Obama extends the Bush tax cuts for the rich under pressure from Congressional Republicans, that disappears from his side of the ledger, because after all, he didn’t want to do it. When Bush enacts Medicare Part D under pressure from Congressional Democrats, the full cost is charged against his presidency. The list of such silliness goes on.
The notion that Bush passed his prescription drug bill “under pressure from Congressional Democrats” is bizarre. Republicans controlled both houses of Congress at the time, and exerted massive pressure to pass the bill. The coalition that squeezed the bill through after the vote was held open for hours consisted of 207 Republicans and 9 Democrats. Some pressure!
The larger theme of blaming liberals, Democrats, low income Americans, women, ethnic minorities for the national debt, the housing bubble*, the great recession and that sticky stuff on the kitchen floor has been around since 2008. I might be giving conservatives, Republitarians and libertarians too much credit, but it is as though there was a collective Oh, No we really screwed up, better start shifting that blame. Get the newspaper pundits, the AM radio brown shirts, the Washington pol soundbite squad to start the disinformation campaign.
What changed about the Bush policies that made them more expensive when Obama took office? What changed is that the economy underwent its deepest crisis since the Great Depression. Bush inherited a budget that was structurally balanced, which became a large surplus at the peak of the business cycle. His policies turned it into a budget that was structurally in deficit even at the peak of the business cycle. And then when the economy collapsed, those structural deficits became massive.
McArdle is implying, without quite openly arguing, that presidents should be judged on the deficits that occur under their watch, not on whether their policies increase or decrease the deficit. This ignores the reality that the business cycle plays a huge role in year-to-year deficits. Take George H.W. Bush. His policies significantly reduced the deficit. But the deficit ran at extraordinarily high levels under his presidency, and McArdle’s data would suggest he was a massively irresponsible president.
I’m not going to get into that game by some liberals where they try to guess what President Obama is thinking and conclude that he is actually a right-wing conservative who passed himself as a Democrat or he is a conservative Democrat to the Right of Reagan and the left of Michele Bachmann. Much easier to judge the actual policy. He has largely enacted the economic policies of the Bush era. He has decided that spending cuts and tax cuts are more important than Keynesian spending to stimulate job creation. The McArdles want to paint these policies, which are clearly, emphatically not liberal Keynesian policies as liberal. The goal posts for what constitutes conservative economic policy must than have shifted to the point where until the Koch brothers are all-powerful owners of America Inc. anything less is Marxism gone wild.
Some blame game reading: