The party line that we are likely to be hearing from now until the November elections is that Obama "inherited" the big federal budget deficits and that he has to "clean up the mess" left in the economy by the Republicans. This may convince those who want to be convinced, but it will not stand up under scrutiny.
No President of the United States can create either a budget deficit or a budget surplus. All spending bills originate in the House of Representatives and all taxes are voted into law by Congress.
Democrats controlled both houses of Congress before Barack Obama became president. The deficit he inherited was created by the Congressional Democrats, including Senator Barack Obama, who did absolutely nothing to oppose the runaway spending. He was one of the biggest of the big spenders.
The last time the federal government had a budget surplus, Bill Clinton was president, so it was called "the Clinton surplus." But Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, where all spending bills originate, for the first time in 40 years. It was also the first budget surplus in more than a quarter of a century.
The only direct power that any president has that can affect deficits and surpluses is the power to veto spending bills. President Bush did not veto enough spending bills but Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats in control of Congress were the ones who passed the spending bills.
Today, with Barack Obama in the White House, allied with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in charge in Congress, the national debt is a bigger share of the national output than it has been in more than half a century. And its share is projected to continue going up for years to come, becoming larger than national output in 2012.
Having created this scary situation, President Obama now says, "Don't give in to fear. Let's reach for hope." The voters reached for hope when they elected Obama. The fear comes from what he has done since taking office.
"The worst thing we could do is to go back to the very same policies that created this mess in the first place," he said recently. "In November, you're going to have that choice."
Another political fable is that the current economic downturn is due to not enough government regulation of the housing and financial markets. But it was precisely the government regulators, under pressure from politicians, who forced banks and other lending institutions to lower their standards for making mortgage loans.