Who Really Created The "Crisis Atmosphere"?

July 26, 2011 10:12 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) response to President Obama's address last night was a typically dishonest performance in which the Republican leader regurgitated many of the same distortions that conservatives have been reciting for the past two years. If there was anything remarkable about the speech, it was Boehner's ability to keep a straight face while accusing Obama of behavior that accurately describes Republicans, such as refusing to "take yes for an answer" and changing his demands.

But perhaps the most galling aspect of Boehner's speech was his assertion that Obama "created" the "crisis atmosphere" that has the U.S. on the brink of default. The reality is that the president inherited a projected deficit of more than $1 trillion, and the recent surge in debt is mostly the result of the fruitless Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This weekend, the New York Times published a chart comparing the costs of policies enacted by the last two administrations:

Boehner — along with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — voted for the policies that caused the deficit to explode under the Bush administration. According to Bloomberg: 

House Speaker John Boehner often attacks the spendthrift ways of Washington. [...]

Yet the speaker, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all voted for major drivers of the nation's debt during the past decade: Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts and Medicare prescription drug benefits. They also voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, that rescued financial institutions and the auto industry.

Together, a Bloomberg News analysis shows, these initiatives added $3.4 trillion to the nation's accumulated debt and to its current annual budget deficit of $1.5 trillion.

Meanwhile, the immediate crisis is that the nation might default on its debt; that can be solved in a matter of minutes with a simple vote to raise the debt ceiling. But congressional Republicans are still refusing to do that unless they get a debt-reduction package that weakens the social safety net and requires no compromise on their part. If Boehner is wants to assign blame for creating a "crisis atmosphere," he should take a hard look in the mirror.