Gene Lyons makes a valiant attempt to understand and explain the cancerous paradox of "zombie lies."
By the time President Obama was inaugurated last January, the economy was bleeding 750,000 lost jobs a month; the Congressional Budget Office had already projected the FY 2009 deficit at $1.3 trillion -- a budget written by the Bush White House. After taking over in 2001 with a healthy budget surplus and some economists warning against paying down the debt too fast, Bush doubled it to over $10 trillion in eight short years.
Yet there was Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on CNN, allowing as how he's "waiting for this administration to take responsibility." He accused the Obama administration of "tripling" the annual deficit, as brazen a falsehood as can be imagined. Is it even necessary to say that neither Cornyn nor any Republican who twiddled his thumbs throughout Bush's two terms has condescended to explain what exact combination of revenue increases and spending cuts is needed to reduce the deficit short term?
Alas it's absolutely necessary. According to the Center on Budget and Priorities, "(T)he fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next 10 years."
New spending by the Obama administration -- mainly the economic stimulus and auto industry rescue -- is dwarfed by Bush's spending on the Iraq and Afghan wars and the unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit. If Democratic attempts to stimulate the economy have proven less than adequate, that's because they've both been hostage to GOP obstructionism and restrained by the fiscal straitjacket Republicans left behind.
But a lot of voters simply don't know it. Indeed, many people actively refuse to understand anything important about what the federal budget consists of or the role of government in modern economies. Millions remain captive to what Paul Krugman calls "zombie lies": long disproven canards like the one that says cutting tax rates invariably leads to higher revenues. Because it's so counterintuitive, parroting it makes Rush Limbaugh fans feel like intellectuals.
Are you a zombie?