Who caused the deficit?

Hint: It wasn’t Barack Obama

In the run-up to midterm elections, congressional Republicans are making a big issue of the federal deficit, blaming it on President Obama and the Democrats. That’s nonsense, but unless the Democrats start pushing back hard, it’s going to scare voters enough to buy into the GOP’s voodoo economics.

Four major elements are contributing to the annual deficit, now at about $1.4 trillion: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recession, the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the Obama administration’s stimulus program. But the last, desperately needed to right a sinking ship, will diminish by half in 2011 and be gone entirely the following year. That leaves the other three, all outgrowths of the Bush regime.

That is, unless the tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of this year, as called for in the original legislation. If they do expire, income taxes will go up slightly for middle-class Americans but significantly for the 2 percent who are genuinely rich. And the deficit will be reduced by $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years.

Let’s get real: Contrary to Republican dogma, cutting taxes has not produced prosperity. When George W. Bush entered office, the budget had a surplus. By the time he left office, it had a deficit of $1 trillion, and the country was in economic freefall.

We’ve been duped by the Republicans’ voodoo economics for more than 30 years now. The only administrations that have produced balanced budgets have been those of Harry Truman and Bill Clinton, both Democrats. There’s no way the deficit can be reduced without a combination of spending cuts and increased revenues. The Republicans know this, but they’d rather frighten voters to win elections than do what is right for the country.