19 Aug 2009

Has Andrew Sullivan Disavowed Barack Obama, Like He Promised?

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Back in late October, I wrote:

In a previous post, I admitted that I now feel quite foolish for being afraid that if Gore won the White House, he would have “wrecked the economy.” (Again, I didn’t vote for Bush, but I was rooting for him against Gore. I rooted for Kerry, though again I didn’t vote for Kerry.) I warned that those who are pro-Obama because he’s the “peace candidate” may have similar feelings, a few years from now.

So as a fun exercise, I would like the pro-Obama people to come up with specific things that would make them admit they are mistaken right now, in their advocacy of Obama. For example, if Obama orders the use of nuclear weapons on Iran, surely that would count, right?

The traffic shot up 732% that day, because the mighty blogger Andrew Sullivan took up my gauntlet, responding to the above by saying:

Er, yes. Jim Henley has made his list. Mine would include almost everything George W. Bush has already done. It couldn’t get any worse, could it? I mean: no liberal Democrat could spend and borrow more than this Republican could he? Pretty close to impossible. And conservatives would go nuts – unlike their shameful indifference for last eight years.

Now I’m not a regular reader of Sullivan, so I can’t tell if his post was 100% pure sarcasm. But if we take it at face value, then Sullivan has to disavow Obama. On the foreign policy and civil liberties stuff, Australian journalist (and socialist) John Pilger pulls no punches in his denunciation of Obama (HT2EPJ).

And on the spending side, it’s not even close. We already know that the deficit this year (FY 2009) will be at least $1.8 trillion, which I’m pretty sure is the biggest in world history, at least in nominal terms. (Here’s a cute story from last July 2008, in which the Democrats were freaking out when the Bush administration predicted that the FY 2009 deficit would be $482 billion. Note, $482 billion << $1.8 trillion.) Now yes, President Obama is not responsible for the entire $1.8 trillion deficit this budget year, which started back in October 2008. So perhaps a fairer assessment of his deficit hawkishness is the projections of his fiscal plans many years into the future. There are a bunch of different ways to gauge this, but here’s a quick and easy one: From the Summary page (Acrobat page 11) of the March 2009 CBO report [.pdf]:

The cumulative deficit from 2010 to 2019 under the President’s proposals would total $9.3 trillion, compared with a cumulative deficit of $4.4 trillion projected under the current-law assumptions embodied in CBO’s baseline. Debt held by the public would rise, from 41 percent of GDP in 2008 to 57 percent in 2009 and then to 82 percent of GDP by 2019 (compared with 56 percent of GDP in that year under baseline assumptions).

Now wait, hold on, don’t start looking up numbers to figure out the comparable stats for the Bush administration. If Obama is expected to raise the explicit federal debt as share of the economy, from 41 points to 82 points, then that means there must have been no federal debt when George Bush took office, in order for them to be equally profligate. So I don’t think we even need to consult the Statistical Abstract. Clearly Obama is going to add far far more to the debt–even adjusting for the size of the economy–than George Bush did.

Sullivan is definitely right that many conservatives who are freaking out about Obama’s deficits, were strangely silent during the Bush years. I am not one of those hypocrites; I called out Bush’s reckless deficits at the time.

Has Sullivan done the same with Obama? Does he now regret his support for the Senator from Illinois?

3 Responses to “Has Andrew Sullivan Disavowed Barack Obama, Like He Promised?”

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