The drivers of our debt

A leading House Republican recently proclaimed recently that policymakers should be focusing on “the drivers of our debt.”

GOP officials ought to hope that doesn’t happen. Bloomberg News has a piece today reminding folks of a point that’s too often forgotten in Washington: the biggest drivers of our debt are Republican policies.

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

“In Washington, more spending and more debt is business as usual,” the Republican leader from Ohio said in a televised address yesterday amid debate over the U.S. debt. “I’ve got news for Washington — those days are over.”

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.

It’d be amusing if it weren’t so ridiculous. Literally the exact same people whose fiscal irresponsibility created the deficit mess are the ones whining constantly about the problem they’re responsible for. Worse, they keep blaming everyone but themselves. Worse still, they’re prepared to crash the economy on purpose unless the solution to their own fiasco meets their approval.

This isn’t in the realm of spin or opinion. The numbers are unambiguous: Republicans took a large surplus, turned it into massive deficit. Republicans could have paid off the debt within a decade, but they instead chose to pursue an ambitious agenda without paying for it.

And now they don’t want the nation to pay the bills.

I suspect there’s a school of thought that says none of this matters right now. We’re a week from a catastrophe, and finding a solution is more important than assigning blame. I can appreciate why this sentiment sounds appealing.

But it’s mistaken. Accountability and credibility matter a great deal. Policymakers must find a resolution to a pressing crisis very quickly, and those who know what they’re talking about deserve to be taken more seriously than those who don’t.

So, when Republicans call for us to focus on “the drivers of our debt,” I’d suggest taking them up on the idea.