All the time, and every day.
Why does this chart matter? Because it makes clear, in that wonderful "worth 1,000 words" way, two realities that are fundamental to sane discussion of public finance, but that most of the public doesn't realize and that the Republican leadership is actively working to obscure. They are:
- The very large, but temporary and self-limiting, expenditures for TARP and other measures proposed by both the Bush and Obama administrations to avoid a second Great Depression, plus Obama stimulus spending. And;
- The very large, but permanent and worsening, budgetary impact of the "Bush tax cuts" -- which when first proposed back in the pre-9/11 era, were supposed to end in 2010 and were in response to what back then seemed to be the "problem" of a burgeoning surplus in federal accounts! Since "extending" those cuts just sounds like business as usual, I think it is hard for most people to envision the profound and growing effect they have. The chart above helps toward that end -- and doesn't even go into how heavily those cuts are skewed to the "haves" of society. Last year Austan Goolsbee had a marvelous chart of his own on that point.
And, as a bonus half-point, the chart clarifies that budget problems would be on the path to self-correction, if the Bush cuts had lapsed as originally planned.
So: print out this chart. Carry it around. Take it to Tea Parties and say you share their determination to get to the root of this deficit problem. Make sure people at least have to grapple with the argument it conveys. Ross Perot changed people's minds with charts 20 years ago. These things make a difference. Thanks to reader Bruce Johnson.
And here's one more for good measure, from the same CBPP source:
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.