At Today's Republican House Q&A, Obama Was Right

President Obama's Q&A with House Republicans was supposed to be a Friday news dump, but it turned into a surprisingly electrifying exchange -- on C-SPAN no less! The transcript is here. The C-SPAN video is here, but it wasn't working well last I tried.

Obama's interaction with Rep. Mike Pence might grab some weekend headlines, but this seemed the most telling exchange to me, with Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling.

REP. JEB HENSARLING, R-TEXAS: Since [the Republican] budget was ignored, what were the old annual deficits under Republicans have now become the monthly deficits under Democrats. The national debt has increased 30 percent.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ... The fact of the matter is, is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. $1.3 trillion. So -- so when you say that suddenly I've got a monthly budget that is higher than the annual -- or a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true. And what is true is that we came in already with a $1.3 trillion deficit before I had passed any law. What is true is, we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade.

First of all, the statement that old Republican deficits have now become monthly Democratic deficits is just plain false. Bush ran up deficits as high as $400 billion. The smallest deficit he ran in his last six years was $160 billion in 2007. Twelve-times-$160 billion makes $1.9 trillion, which is half a trillion more than our deficit in 2009, or our projected deficit in 2010.

Second I'm not terribly fond of Obama's insistence on blaming the economy on Bush in every speech. But it's only natural to be defensive if Republicans insist on blaming Democrats for the entirety of the deficit. Let's look at 2009. Federal spending was about $3.4 trillion and the deficit was $1.4 trillion. The stimulus distributed a little more than $200 billion in 2009 (and about half of that came in the form of tax relief). That is a lot of money to be sure, but it accounted for six percent of total federal outlays, and some economists credit it for adding up to three percentage points to GDP growth. If we're going to debate the budget honestly, we have to begin at a place that isn't "Democrats are responsible for double digit unemployment and increasing the deficit by 1200%."