RNC Day 2: Is "We Built It" A Reference To The National Debt?
"We have 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed because Barack Obama cannot figure out what makes free enterprise work," former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu said Tuesday.
The theme "We built it" may well be a reference to the role the GOP has had in building the public debt, however, according to this graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The economy has taken center stage for the convention, as evidenced by the two debt clocks on display. But Republicans have put their collective foot in the party's mouth as a closer inspection of the numbers reveals that trillions of dollars of public debt were the result of Republican policies.
The Bush-era tax cuts account for more public debt than any other policy. The cuts were passed under Bush and extended under Obama. Republicans want the tax cuts made permanent while Democrats want to repeal them for incomes over $250,000 a year.
The economic crisis accounts for much of the debt as a slow economy drives down tax revenues (because people without jobs can't pay taxes) at the same time it drives social spending higher (because people without jobs rely on unemployment and other government benefits).
The third biggest chunk of the debt pie is the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Certainly, the responsibility for those wars belongs squarely on the shoulders of both parties. But they were launched under GOP leadership and policies (and bolstered by GOP claims the wars would pay for themselves).
All said, without the Bush-era tax cuts and simultaneous wars, the national debt would be would be between 20 and 30 percent of GDP. Currently, it is almost 100 percent. If current policies continue, it looks like the GOP will need a bigger clock.
Reach Staff Columnist Dawn Megli here.