Friday, April 06, 2012


The latest column by David Brooks chides President Obama for daring to criticize the Paul Ryan budget. Jamelle Bouie has made short work of the column, and Charlie Pierce has mercilessly and entertainingly fisked it, but I want to address one of the column's minor points:

After 10 years, government would be smaller under Ryan, but, as Daniel Mitchell of the Cato Institute complains, it would still take up a larger share of national output than when Bill Clinton left office.

Lovely. And, pray tell, what was the age of the oldest baby boomer the year Bill Clinton left office? I'll tell you: 55.

What's going to be the age of the oldest baby boomer in ten years? Here's the answer: 76.

So of course government spending was lower as a percentage of GDP in 2001 -- a significantly smaller percentage of the population was eligible for Medicare and Social Security.

Oh, and what was the debt and deficit status of the United States when Bill Clinton left office? We were running balanced budgets and beginning to pay off debt. How did we arrive at that?

Well, for one thing, Bill Clinton raised taxes, to the collective howls of the Paul Ryans of his time. He also refrained from embroiling us any badly run, interminable wars. And he also avoided financial meltdowns during his term.

So, um, less debt service, less military spending, and less bailing out were necessary then than now. Which means that it doesn't matter that the Ryan budget's government sopending is a bigger percentage of GDP than in the last Clinton budget, because there's a hell of a lot more we need to spend now than there was at the end of Clinton's term.

Apples and oranges.

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