POTUS REMINDS GOP WHO SPILLED THE MILK…. In addition to the debt-reduction plan, the rejection of the Paul Ryan proposal, and the spirited defense of progressive governance, President Obama’s speech included one other thing that’s worth noting: a reminder about how we got to this point.

It’s worth keeping in mind because there’s apparently a widespread Republican belief that the large budget shortfall — the ones the GOP claims to be desperate to address — is Democrats’ fault. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said last week of Dems, “It’s their debt.” Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) added soon after, “We’re here mopping up their spilled milk, to be honest.”

With this nonsense in mind, I was glad Obama set the record straight today.

“As a result of … bipartisan efforts, America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

“But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program — but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts — tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.

“To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our national checkbook, consider this: in the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

“But that’s not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pockets. It was absolutely the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.

“So that’s how our fiscal challenge was created. That’s how we got here.”

This isn’t opinion; it’s simply a recitation of recent history. Those who consider the deficit and debt a mess, and want to know who “spilled the milk,” shouldn’t have any real doubts.

It is, ironically, the party that created the mess that’s whining the most about the speed with which it’s being cleaned up.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.