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When Washington raised the debt ceiling this week, the Beltway media breathlessly reported that the fiscal crisis had ended. Lawyers danced in hallways, bureaucrats twerked on the Metro, congressional aides kissed strangers in the streets — the Tea Party has been defeated! It was like VJ day for wonks.
As our political class exchanged high fives and reporters praised a return to “sanity,” I wondered how these odd creatures defined insanity.
America’s fiscal crisis is not that our debt ceiling was too low, the fiscal crisis is that our debt is too high. When I mentioned this to left-leaning folks, they seemed indifferent. “Obama lowered the deficit.” “I think Bush spent more.“ “It’s Reagan’s fault!”
So I made this infographic:
Since most graphs look like this, I focused on just three big numbers: Deficit, revenue and debt.
The analogy is imperfect, but imagine the green is your salary, the yellow is the amount you're spending over your salary, and the red is your Visa statement. Then imagine your spouse runs into the room and shouts, “great news honey, our fiscal crisis is over. We just got approved for a new MasterCard!” Your first call would be to a marriage counselor or a shrink.
The chart is brutally bipartisan. Debt increased under Republican presidents and Democrat presidents. It increased under Democrat congresses and Republican congresses. In war and in peace, in boom times and in busts, after tax hikes and tax cuts, the Potomac filled with red ink.
Washington likes to talk about sustainability. Forget sustainable — how is this sane?
Yet when a conservative hesitates before raising the debt ceiling, he's portrayed as a madman. When Paul Ryan offers a thoughtful plan to reduce the debt over decades, he's pushing grannies into the Grand Canyon and pantsing park rangers on the way out.
Since posting this chart to Twitter, the reaction has been intense. Some on the right think I’m too tough on the GOP while those on the left say it doesn’t matter or it’s all a big lie. Others tell me that I should have weighted for this variable or added lines for that trend. They are free to create their own charts to better fit their narrative and I’m sure they will. But the numbers shown above can’t be spun by either side.
Math doesn’t care about fairness or good intentions. Spending vastly more than you have isn’t good when done by a Republican or a Democrat. Two plus two doesn’t equal 33.2317 after you factor in a secret "Social Justice" multiplier. And if our current president accumulates debt at the rate of his first four-plus years, the national debt will be $22 trillion by the time leaves office.
So post this chart to Facebook, Pinterest or on your local grocery store’s bulletin board. If enough people see it, maybe — just maybe — those who want to increase the debt will be viewed as the “crazy” ones.
Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.