Broback's Blog

Broback's Blog header image 2

The FDR/Johnson Strategy: A Legacy of Debt

September 28th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Politics

My response to the most recent “blame Reagan” post from my friend Steve (collect the entire set!) One that borrows more than a few keystrokes from him…

The Entitlement Strategy is a brilliantly effective (and profoundly irresponsible) political framework. It goes like this:

Borrow money from our children and from abroad, and use the money to buy votes here with the world’s oldest political pander: “We’ll give you stuff.” The bonus is that it also strongly appeals to those who are obsessed with inequality aversion, guilt, or both.

Just tell the people they don’t have to pay for the government they insist on receiving. Borrow to pay for it instead. It gets you elected, right? Deficits be damned. Plus, do it right and the big bills will kick in long after you’ve left office, and with any luck at all, you’ll likely have an army of bloggers who will blame it on the ideologically incompatible leaders who come after you.

The CBO recently updated their June 90-page report titled “The Long-Term Budget Outlook” and it there aren’t any surprises there for those firmly rooted in reality. As expected, it focuses on our unsustainable budget:

This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report examines the pressures on the federal budget by presenting the agency’s projections of federal spending and revenues over the coming decades.

Many will find it surprising that a CBO document focusing on our deficit doesn’t dedicate a chapter exclusively to Ronald Reagan or his policies. Oddly, he’s never mentioned. In fact, “cold war” or even “military” are never featured. Reagan’s tax cuts? Nope. Iraq? Nothing. Afghanistan? Zip. Defense? YES – but just twice in 90 pages.

What is mentioned frequently? Exactly what one whose looked at the issue objectively would expect: ENTITLEMENTS. Over 400 mentions.

Social Security = 125
medicare = 179
Medicaid = 112
Entitlements = 5

Okay, I know what you’re saying. That’s cute Steve. But can we please just look at the actual fiscal analysis? What do the numbers say? You guessed it. Essentially the same thing. Check out the CBO spending forecast:


Hmmm. Where’s defense? Isn’t that a huge slice? “Reckless” wars and “wasteful” military build up? Where are they? Turns out defense is such a small slice compared to the creations of FDR and LBJ the CBO doesn’t feel it merits being called out. Kind of sad really. Those items fall are within the top (and ever-dwindling) slice titled “other.”

I had an idea. What if we took those few programs that can almost exclusively be attributed to FDR and LBJ and put them all together? Combine them into one big, blue tsunami. Here we go:


Wait, what are those little red blips? Squint and you’ll see these are the areas that indicate the difference between tax revenues and expenditures (the awful, irresponsible deficits) that occurred during the Reagan and Bush years.

Kind of puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

Even Google understands what the problem is. And it isn’t tax cuts. Tax increases/cuts come and go with the seasons. Entitlements do not. In closing, I’ll refer to what what millions of searchers and the worlds most valuable algorithm have come up with.



1 response so far ↓

Leave a Comment