A Silly Graph

The graph in question, highlighted by Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, purports to depict current and future public debt. (“Tax Cuts, Wars Account for Nearly Half of Public Debt by 2019”) But the graph is silly. In fact, I would have thought that Klein grabbed it from The Onion.

The graph tries to show that most of the debt comes from tax cuts and the military. Yet it doesn’t mention anything about entitlement spending, which comprises about two-thirds of government spending – and which is by far the biggest factor driving the debt. The military, by contrast, comprises one-fifth of government spending. (Click here for the source, table 6.1.) Again, the graph makes no mention of entitlement programs – a tremendous omission, perhaps done deliberately.

Tax cuts? That’s like blaming your massive credit card debt on the raise you didn’t get. Or put it this way. If Ezra Klein were a spendaholic and came and told me his credit card debt is massive because his raises weren’t high enough, I’d take a few steps back, thinking he must be batty. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think he’s batty because he’s thinks the same thing vis-a-vis government debt. I just think he needs to re-take or take (if he’s never taken it before) Economics 101.

One other thing. After the Bush tax cuts, tax revenues…went up! Way up – from $1.8 trillion in 2003 to $2.6 trillion in 2007. So even with the tax cuts, we got a mega-raise.

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