Pethokoukis insists that Obama is responsible for his deficits:
Only by establishing 2009 as the new baseline, something Republican budget hawks like Paul Ryan feared would happen, does Obama come off looking like a tightwad. Obama has turned a one-off surge in spending due to the Great Recession into his permanent New Normal through 2016 and beyond. It’s as if one of my teenagers crashed our family minivan, and I had to buy a new one. And then, since I liked that new car smell so much, I decided to buy a new van every year for the rest of my life. I would indeed be a reckless spender.
I hardly think refusing to cut automatic stabilizer spending (the main areas of domestic spending increase since 2009), particularly for safety net programs where increased spending is a matter of higher enrollments by people in need rather than higher benefits, is analogous to buying a new car every year. … Pethokoukos also doesn’t mention that a recession depresses GDP, making spending (which is affected both by population growth and by higher demand for public services) a higher percentage even if nothing else happens.
That last massive lie is at the core of Romney's political strategy. By removing that context (which is like talking about the sinking of the Titanic without mentionng the iceberg), Romney is knowingly arguing that the spending and debt levels of the last three years were some kind of choice by a president who just loves to strangle the US economy by spending much more money than we have. But the only president who made that choice was George W. Bush – by crippling revenues, even as he fought wars with no budgets and new entitlements with no end (Medicare D), rendering us bankrupt even as we desperately needed a rainy day surplus to fight the depression.
Obama did not have a serious choice; he had a fate. That fate was to pick up the pieces of the most catastrophic presidency in modern times. The final bouquet – after emptying the public coffers with no serious boost to employment, profits or growth – was the financial collapse, which both shrunk the economy, decimated revenues to 50 year lows, and automatically increased spending for the unemployed and poor in desperate need of help. Once you account for that – and the Nutting graph indeed shows that this was baked in the cake by the time Obama was elected – Obama has been, like most modern Democrats, far more fiscally conservative than any modern Republican.
Now you could argue that Obama should have let the auto industry go fully bankrupt, allow the economy to head into deflation and depression without any fiscal stimulus to counter, cut the unemployed off at the knees – and we would be Greece today, underwater in a deepening and self-reinforcing depression. Can you imagine what Romney would have said about Obama's record then?
And yes, as Suderman notes, the real criticism should be focused on the absence of any long-term deal on entitlements, defense, taxes and spending – a deal that would do a huge amount for business confidence. But seriously: if one side simply refuses to put any serious revenue increases on the table at all, who's really preventing that effort?
There are legitimate issues to debate with respect to the future in this election. But the caricature of the last three years, the knowing lies that interweave with this false narrative, the attempt to describe a pragmatic, sane and successful president as somehow unqualified to tackle this mess – when the US economy has fared better in this period than much of the West – are deceptions, exploiting pain. I'm sick of them, and the cynicism they represent.