Political Correction

GOP Conference Chair Honors Reagan By Lying About Deficit, Which Reagan Nearly Tripled

February 07, 2011 10:46 am ET - by Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Jeb Hensarling

Before being elevated into the party leadership, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) was perhaps best known for badgering President Obama during last year's House GOP retreat in Baltimore.

In a televised exchange, Hensarling scolded the president about the ballooning deficit, claiming that "the old annual deficits under Republicans have now become the monthly deficits under Democrats." Obama rightly pointed out that he inherited a deficit over $1 trillion and challenged "any independent fact-checker out there to take a look at [Hensarling's] presentation versus mine." PolitiFact.com rated Hensarling's claim "false."

But one year later, Hensarling is still sticking to his distorted script. In a Politico op-ed today, the recently elected chairman of the House Republican Conference celebrates President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday by directly blaming Obama for "not only the first but also the second $1 trillion deficit in the nation's history":

Thanks to Obama's economic policies, we've seen not only the first but also the second $1 trillion deficit in the nation's history. And we are well on our way to our third.

[...]

If this president envisions leaving a legacy of economic growth like that of Reagan's, he should heed not only Reagan's advice but also the voice of the American people. They spoke loudly and clearly at the ballot box in November with this unmistakable message: Limit government, cut spending and stop borrowing — now.

Like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), whom Hensarling beat out for his leadership position on the strength of his supposed "economic expertise," the Texas Republican doesn't seem to grasp basic facts about the budget. As the conservative Washington Times reported almost two weeks before President Obama's inauguration, the FY 2009 deficit was projected to be "$1.2 trillion even if Congress doesn't enact any new programs." 

What's more, if Hensarling and other conservatives are intent on boosting Reagan's legacy by comparing him to President Obama, they might want to choose an issue other than the deficit. According to the New York Times, "the deficit nearly tripled during the Reagan presidency, partly due to tax cuts and increases in military spending."

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