Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La)

The Senator thinks its running backwards!

The Senator thinks it’s running backwards!

On the Shreveport Time website, Andre Dean Benton reports…

“I attended the Bossier City VFW Post 5951 discussion of Veterans’ issues with Senator Mary Landrieu last week at 1315 North Gate Road, where she responded to a wide range of issues facing our American veterans from her talking points as well as from questions fielded from the audience. An older veteran stood up toward the middle of the meeting and expressed to her his deep sadness and concern with the massive and constantly growing American debt ($16.9 trillion today and $5.6 trillion in 2000) and the crippling cost to taxpayers to pay for the staggering interest on that debt….

I was stunned to then hear my Louisiana senator defend the massive U.S. debt saying: “That is not true, sir! We do not have an increasing national debt! For the past six to seven years we have been continuously driving that debt down and reducing it and it is NOT increasing.” She then went on to explain the federal costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as “non-negotiable mandates by law that cannot be changed” and explained that only a small portion of the federal budget was in discretionary spending, where she was working with others in the Senate to further reduce our nation’s debt….

“No one on her staff corrected her or offered a polite “update” for the audience, and the elderly gentleman speaking the question was a little rattled by her vigorous contradiction of his stated facts that he just mumbled something across the table from me about “Congress constantly raising the debt ceiling …” and then was respectfully silent. As he was asking and our senator was responding, I was Googling the US Treasury’s official home page on my iPhone and staring at the government published facts on the history and facts about the U.S. debt:

  • $5.6 trillion in September 2000;
  • $7.9 trillion in 2005;
  • $13.5 trillion in 2010;and
  • just a smidgen under $17 trillion as we reach the fiscal end of 2013;
  • with the US debt rising at over $2.3 billion dollars every day now and no relief in sight.

“I think we were all too embarrassed for the senator and for her staff, and for the elderly gentleman who asked the question as none wanted to let the awkwardness go on any further, so we all just politely looked down at our feet and hoped the awkward moment would quickly come to an end. Eventually it did. I am confident that Sen. Landrieu’s staff and office would like to print an official correction, or explain that the senator had confused “national debt” with something about deficit spending or some other economic theory or data which she had errantly interjected into a clearly articulated discussion on the national debt.”

Sorry—no U.S. Senator is allowed to “confuse” the debt with the deficit, not once, not ever. That is per se rank incompetence. The debt should be foremost in all legislators’ minds, not to mention the President, but it is not. So invested in the confusion on the part of the public and the news media regarding the debt and the deficit are the Democrats in denial about the danger of unbalanced budgets and U.S, indebtedness that they are now fooling themselves. Yes, the annual budget deficit has been going down, but that still means the U.S. is running a deficit, which means that the debt is rising, as in getting bigger every day.  Landrieu’s response is the response of someone unqualified and too irresponsible to be entrusted with the nation’s purse strings.

There is no excuse for this, which should frighten anyone who doesn’t believe that the U.S. can continue to ignore the nation’s fiscal realities forever.

39 thoughts on “Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La)

  1. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) made the exact same error – mixing up debt and deficit – on Fox News on Sunday, when he talked on and on about “the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.”

  2. You are of course totally right about there being no excuse for a Senator not knowing the difference.
    Take care, though, to clarify the relationship. It’s not quite right to say, in some sort of horror, “but the debt is STILL increasing, omigot, the sky is falling even more every day,” as if this were the last word on the matter.

    Two points to keep in mind. First, if the debt is ever to decrease, it will START with the deficit decreasing. You can’t to B without going through A. If I’m constantly paying down my mortgage (or my second mortgage, maybe a better analogy), then of course I still owe money, but it’s a good thing. To say, “But oh, my, you still owe money to the bank” is somewhat beside the point.

    What’s more to the point is to ask what’s the ratio of the debt to various other factors, most notably GDP; and secondarily, what that ration SHOULD look like in a macro-economic context (e.g. it SHOULD look about its highest just as we’re coming out of a private sector recession, and it SHOULD look its lowest just as we’re comfortably atop a private sector recovery).

    To imply that there’s something magically bad (or good) about a particular absolute dollar number of debt is just as confusing as to mix up deficits and debts (albeit more forgiveable as it’s a more advanced concept).

    I fear that some people reading this will think that somehow a zero level of debt is the ideal level. Think again. A zero level of government debt implies either that we have absolutely no level of investment in the future (e.g. all the bridges are fully depreciated, we don’t invest in long term military programs) or that all such programs are paid for in advance by taxing the citizenry (do you really want the government tapping your paycheck now to pay General Dynamics ten years from now?).

    I’m no economist and would welcome corrections from those who are, but I think the above is basically correct.

    • I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll just jump around a little…

      First, debt is neither good nor bad, though it is worse than zero debt. Zero debt means that the government is running at peak efficiency, neither taking too much in taxes, nor taking too little. Debt is sometimes Okay if it is paid off quickly (or at all, which the government currently does not do). This is like going into debt to buy a car, or repair the roof on your house – yes you have to do it because you are unlikely to have the thousands of dollars laying around to pay for them out-right, but you DO pay it off, so it is acceptable.

      The concept of “federal debt is good” is part of Keynesian economics, and is only half of it. The entire theory is that you have debt spending in the bad years, putting borrowed money towards assistance programs and public works projects (like roads, bridges, dams, etc), but then you drastically cut that spending during the good years (because economies are cyclical), reducing or removing entirely those assistance programs and finishing off the already-started public works projects and then adding no more. You use these huge reductions in spending to pay off the debt you incurred during the bad years.

      Guess what part of this is considered anathema to Democrats today.

      And we can not, period, improve the situation.

      Why do I say that? Because entitlement spending – that spending that is controlled via legislation outside the normal budgetary process – plus service on the debt are greater than what the government takes in via taxation. This means that if you spend ZERO MONEY in the federal budget (no military, no federal employee pay, nothing) YOU WILL STILL INCREASE THE DEBT.

      Now, it is tempting to say “well, take more in via taxes”, but if you take every penny that the top 5% in the US have (not just what they make, but if you liquidate every asset and leave them with absolutely nothing at all in the world) you still won’t make up a single year’s worth of deficit spending.

      And that would leave you with the minor problem of “what the fuck do you do the NEXT year, because THAT pool of cash is gone”.

      But despite this, we are told that the government does not spend too much, even though we will exceed Greece-levels of debt-to-GDP before the end of Obama’s second term (around late 2015, actually).

      You could fix that by growing the GDP, but we can’t do THAT until the government stops making it impossible (it is entirely governmental regulations and the uncertainty the government creates that is stalling GDP growth). What we are left with is pathetic grown of around 2%. This also means that we will continue to grow the number of Americans out of work.

      “But Scott, unemployment went down again! What do you mean ‘grow the number of Americans out of work’?”

      I mean that we need – at the absolute minimum – a little over 3% GDP growth to keep job creation at a level that can keep up with POPULATION GROWTH. What you are seeing when you see a drop in unemployment is an increase in those who aren’t looking for work.

      Because if you stop looking, you leave the workforce and are no longer counted in unemployment numbers.

      We have a record low percentage of workforce participation, worse than the Great Depression.

      And yet, again, we are told the fix is the government doing more.

      And so we will continue towards to economic ruin of this country.

      You think the last 6 years were bad? Buddy, you ain’t fucking seen nothin’ yet.

      • AblativeMeatshield –

        You’re right to a point, but your point isn’t very far along at all.

        First, to your claim that zero debt “means that the government is running at peak efficiency.” Have a look at the list of countries in the world and their levels of public debt:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_public_debt

        First, very few countries do NOT have debt. See if you can spot a pattern in them: Lesotho, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Norway, Sweden, Finland, United Arab Republic. Saudi Arabia. Can you spell “oil?”

        Of the rest, let’s look at economically successful countries, and their debt levels. The data is 2012 est. As a baseline, the US government debt as a percent of GDP is 73.6%.

        OK, who’s an economic superstar? Obviously Germany, right, the only powerhouse in Europe, super low unemployment, excellent profitability and so forth? Their percent of debt to GDP is – oh wait, it’s 81.7%. Higher than the US.

        Must be a fluke, right? OK, how about Singapore – now there’s an incredibly successful economy. Oh wait, they’re at 111.4%.

        If you don’t like the way those numbers look, here are some countries with ratios below 50% – they must be doing great by your theory. OK, we’ve got Vietnam, Turkey, Syria, Senegal, Rwanda, Peru, Paraguay, Iran, Estonia, Dominical Republic. Are we getting the picture?

        (And as to your omigod we’re almost Greece, their number is 161.3%. Rather a far ways off from us. No argument about them being a disaster, but it’s interesting to note that Japan is at 214.3%. Which country would you rather be living in?)

        Second, you say going into debt is OK if you pay if off quickly, like buying a car or repairing your roof, just because you’re not likely to have thousands of dollars lying around. Well, at least you acknowledge the need for working capital.

        Except that if you’re a government, your “working capital” differs in several ways from that of your household.

        First, your “home repairs” are not short term: they’re things like developing the National Park system, rebuilding after Katrina, buying aircraft carriers, and helping finance education. Try getting General Dynamics to finance you with trade credit; your idea of “peak efficiency” is absurd, if you don’t deal in mega-year terms on those kinds of issues you get screwed to the wall by vendors, rightly so. (Even in companies, you never see zero debt organizations; the whole private equity movement was about leveraging up companies to get MORE efficient by taking on more debt – especially when interest rates are low. THAT logic applies – we should (and to some extent are) loading up on debt at the unbelievably low rates that have obtained in recent years).

        Third, you quite accurately describe Keynesian economics, but then you say that the Democrats argue AGAINST the part of Keynesianism where “You use these huge reductions in spending to pay off the debt you incurred during the bad years.”

        Name one single Democrat who actually disagrees with that. Just one. I can’t think of any. Paul Krugman has been saying that for years, never said anything different. Remember that Bill Clinton actually got us into budget surplus territory, and he was a Democrat. It is simply a flat-out lie to say Democrats oppose paying down debt in good times. Look at the history of the last century, you’ll find that on balance, it’s the GOP that has added more debt, and the Dems who have paid it down. Fact. True. Despite people like yourself who continue to take issue with reality.

        Fourth, and really the only COMPLETE AND TOTAL LIE you are spreading is this one: “It is entirely governmental regulations and the uncertainty the government creates that is stalling GDP growth).”

        This was never true. Studies have been done to prove it, and they’ve all disproven it. Here’s a very lengthy study (which cites a dozen other studies) by Lawrence Mishel, from TWO YEARS AGO already.
        The article is Regulatory Uncertainty: a Phony Explanation. http://www.epi.org/publication/regulatory-uncertainty-phony-explanation/

        And don’t even think about using an ad hominem argument about how he must be a liberal because he went to Penn State: if you can’t argue facts, then get out of the debate. Show me even one study that shows the opposite. You can’t.

        It is really time to call a spade a spade on this issue: if a point has been conclusively made for two years and people are STILL asserting an obvious falsehood, then those people are delusional and/or liars, take your pick.

        Finally, you say – correctly – that the unemployment rate is high because people have stopped looking for work. You then say that the WRONG solution lies in more government spending. Here’s a graphic (if this comment will take graphics) that compares government spending in this recession vs. the recovery after the 2001 recession.

        Well, the graphic won’t take: but what it shows is, government spending has declined considerably in this recession, whereas it increased coming out of the last one. Note: we recovered quickly from the last one. We’re NOT recovering from this one.

        The difference is NOT, repeat NOT your reality-denying claim of regulation and uncertainty – the reason we’re in the unemployment pickle we’re in is that there ARE NO JOBS, because the private sector, despite all-time low tax levels, has been unable to create enough jobs to offset the serious job reductions in government that have come about because people like you have chosen to ignore the lesson of the 1930s, and insist on obsessing about costs at a time when we need government spending.

        We have been doing exactly the opposite of what Keynesianism suggests in the short term – because reality-deniers like yourself keep arguing about what we should do WHEN WE GET BACK TO SURPLUS. But It’s your arguments that have kept us from getting there.

  3. Everyone should be concerned about the rising debt… Seems like politicians treat it like the weather, like they have no control over it. Republicans and Democrats are both responsible for putting us in this situation.

    Low interest rates are the only thing keeping the payments to the debt from controlling our budget. Those payments (as a % of GDP) are lowing than the Reagan years. Once interest rates start moving, we are in real deep trouble as a nation… High inflation higher taxes and all the ensuing problems.. The 1970s !

    • Jj,

      Two years ago your views were mainstream. Now most economists have recanted, and you are in the minority. The obsession with debt, which led to austerity, cost-cutting, inadequate stimulus, et al, is now pretty much judged to have been a very, very bad move. We did the same thing we did in the Depression – cut government spending in the middle of a downturn. It made things worse then, it made things worse now.
      (for one citation, try Simon Wren-Lewis
      http://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/the-knowledge-transmission-mechanism.html)

      Those who share your viewpoint (I don’t know about you personally) have also tended to be arguing since 2008 that hyperinflation was just around the corner, that interest rates were going to skyrocket, that the deficit would continue ballooning, that China would pull the trigger on us, and that the dollar would be “debased” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean). NONE of those things have happened (including the decline of the dollar, if that’s what ‘debasement’ is supposed to mean).

      What has happened is that the obsession with debt has kept the recovery down, ruined the Euro, kept our unemployment way up, and made the rich richer and the poor poorer. ]

      The Republicans and Democrats do NOT share equally in this; the Republicans have far more blame to shoulder for not having disciplined the crazy wing of the GOP, whose inmates are now running the asylum.

      Meanwhile, the deficit is now down about 50% since 2009. And politicians like Rand Paul are every bit as confused as Landry – they go around saying that the deficit is at a trillion and rising. And, it is NOT. Reality does not accord with that statement.

      We could use a little inflation, a lot more government investment, and a lot

      • The obsession with debt, which led to austerity, cost-cutting, inadequate stimulus, et al, is now pretty much judged to have been a very, very bad move.

        Only by fucking morons.

        There is a point where debt starts to act as a drag on economic growth. We passed that point about 4 years ago, causing a drag of about 1% on GDP growth.

        But please, tell me how it is wrong to fix our spending problems. Please.

        • Mr. Meatshield. Really. “Fucking morons?”

          An Oxford University economist?
          http://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/fellows_and_research/wren.shtml

          PIMCO’s Bill Gross, perhaps, is a fucking moron?
          http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/6c023bdc-a93c-11e2-a096-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2Twsaa061

          Seriously?

          And as to your claim that “there is a point where debt starts to act as a drag on economic growth. We passed that point 4 years ago…”

          Oh really? Says who? The only people who made that claim (Rogoff and Reinhart, at the 80% level) have been famously, widely, and conclusively debunked. Their arithmetic was famously flawed (bad spreadsheet errors, caught by a grad student), and their assumptions have been disavowed by nearly all reputable economists.

          Did you not know that? Or do you have some other study that has eluded the economics profession?
          Seriously: I’m not sure anyone should be calling others “fucking morons” in print, but in your case, it’s completely absurd. Never mind who the hell are you to make such claims? That would be reverse ad hominem arguments.

          I’ll make it simple. Show me the data. Show us facts. Cite anyone else who thinks Simon Wren and Bill Gross are fucking morons. Show me an economist who says “there is a point where debt starts to act as a drag…and we passed it.” Name them. Prove it.

          You simply cannot be taken seriously anymore, and I for one will stop doing so now.

      • First off, it is not down 50%..

        Here are the last 6 years of spending…

        2007 – $161 Billion
        2008 – $458 Billion
        2009 – $1,413 Billion
        2010 – $1,294 Billion
        2011 – $1,300 Billion
        2012 – $1,087 Billion
        2013 – $973 Billion (projected, it won’t be that low)

        So not only was there a VAST spike in spending (which while 2009 is not ENTIRELY Obama’s fault, he pushed for and supported the two biggest causes of that spike, so he is NOT absolved of responsibility there), but it is not, in fact, going down all that fast.

        In fact, we were all but promised that the spike in spending would be a one-time thing, so we should have been back under $600 Billion in the 2010 “budget”. That we were not is due to the fact that the government can not. Stop. Spending.

        To say that efforts to end this spending are wrong is to either be intellectually dishonest (it is you, so I’m willing to accept that as a possibility), or to just be a complete and raging fuckwit.

        • Mr. Meatshield,

          By your numbers, the deficit is down “only” 31.1%. I’d take that.

          Here’s Paul Krugman’s take from August 9:

          “I’d love to see a comparable poll now — asking, say, what has happened to the deficit since 2009. (It has actually been cut more than 50 percent). My bet is that it would look like that 1996 poll.”

          Now, I happen to believe that you picked real numbers, and that you and he simply used different sources (easy to do). My guess is you may prefer to believe that a Nobel economist can’t do arithmetic, or purposely lied, because after all people who disagree with you are either “intellectually dishonest or a complete and raging fuckwit.”

          Right.

          • I wouldn’t tout Nobel prizes all that much for ‘street cred’ purposes if I were you: they gave one to Yasser Arafat and also one to our incompetent president (and mostly as a “screw you Bush, we hate you” not a “hey Obama, good job”)

            They don’t seem that well thought out and purely political.

          • Here’s Paul Krugman’s take

            Paul Krugman is a complete and utter retard, who’s every word in the NYT is diametrically opposed to what he actually got his Nobel prize for. There is not a single, serious economist who has any respect for Krugman.

            He is one of the most dishonest hacks in existance, and that’s really saying something.

            For fun, go find what he had to say about Bush the Younger’s deficit spending. You will find a very different man writing than the incompetent moron you just cited.

            And to shut you the fuck up about “Nobel Prize Winners”, Al Gore got one, and he still apparently doesn’t know shit about how a climate works. And we won’t even start on the idiocy of the feckless fucktard who won the Peace Prize in 2009…

          • And another thing, you bumbling fuckwit, just because someone with a neat prize says something doesn’t mean it is true, especially when I just fucking gave you proof that it is a God Damn Lie.

            But nice projection of “being partisan”. I would hardly expect less from the likes of you.

            • There is something inherently amusing about “Mr. Meatshield.”
              *************
              He’s an original in a world of copies.

      • Should I link to our last discussion on the debt and Keynesian nonsense? Where I debunked all your parroted arguments here?

        Or, does “you are still wrong” suffice?

  4. This is where the law school graduates end up — in politics. They know nothing; they support things they don’t understand; and the country is going to hell.

  5. Sorry—no U.S. Senator is allowed to “confuse” the debt with the deficit, not once, not ever. That is per se rank incompetence. The debt should be foremost in all legislators’ minds, not to mention the President, but it is not.

    When writing posts on the state of the economy, the debt is foremost in your mind, yet you still “‘confuse’ the debt with the deficit” all the time, with the benefit of proofreading.

    • Wait…am I a senator? Am I responsible for the nation’s finances? Does my error somehow justify their incompetence? Is the debt or the deficit part of my job responsibilities? I make that mistake carelessly exactly because those who do have responsibility are lazy, negligent, careless and/or ignorant in their regular discussion of the issue. I sometimes call an apatosaurus a brontosaurus, too—luckily, I’m not a paleontologist.

      • So, you’re blaming them for your error? You’re digging yourself a bigger hole here.

        My point was that this is a topic which you expound upon at length, it’s a topic which you think you are knowledgeable on, yet you don’t think it’s a big deal when you make the same screw up. Are you saying now that your comments shouldn’t be trusted? That you aren’t focused on the debt?

        If Senator Landrieu had screwed this up in a speech or an essay, jumping all over her makes sense, but in an oral response to a question, confusing debt and deficit is excusable.

        • Oh, just stop. I’m saying my error doesn’t make their error less forgivable. I’m saying I expect Senators to have the difference tattooed in the underside of their skull. I’m saying that mixing up the words is nowhere like actually correcting someone who used the correct term as if he used the wrong one. I’m saying that the evidence indicates that Landrieu doesn’t really know the difference. I do know the difference. I just use the wrong word sometimes, just like I know the difference between take and bring. But I’m irrelevant to the issue at hand, because I am not an elected official with the power to either make the debt situation better or worse.

          • This is (to put it mildly) going far outside the area of my expertise, but this may be a matter of neurobiology as much as anything else. The two words start with the same sound, refer to strongly related concepts, and almost certainly activate the same area of the brain when someone talks about them.

            In other words, Jack, do you think it’s possible that a “no one who mixes words up by accident is a competent elected official” standard is a mistake, because humans may be wired to occasionally make mistakes like this when speaking extemporaneously? If so, occasionally mixing the words up while speaking off the cuff may have no relationship to how well one actually understands the concept when, say, writing legislation.

            Paging Stephen Pinker!

          • What you’re doing is special pleading. You’re applying an argument to Landrieu that you haven’t and don’t apply to yourself.

            Even more, your guilty of what you say is special about Landrieu’s comments. See https://ethicsalarms.com/2012/10/03/ethics-heroes-president-obama-and-mitt-romney/comment-page-1/#comment-50447 and the following replies.

            Heavily snipped for clarity:

            Me: “[You think republicans] aren’t [falsely] saying [Obama] raised the deficit?””
            You: “You really want to argue that he DIDN’T raise the deficit?”
            Me: “Obama has lowered the deficit. This isn’t a matter for debate. 1.4 trillion to 1.3 trillion, and likely around 1.1 trillion next year (though current law would put it around 900 billion.)”

            I think you’re boldly, and incorrectly, correcting my comment about the deficit, just like Landrieu did.

            Would you like to move the goalposts, again?

            • Seriously? That’s what your basing this on? That exchange, which was in the comments, not an original post (my replies are only slightly proofread, and are first draft finals), in which you falsely asserted that Obama didn’t raise the deficit, using the most deceitful standards imaginable. What do you mean, “it isn’t a matter of debate”? You were using the fact that he’s lowered the level of deficits that he raised to unprecedented levels as lowering the deficits? Or are you relying on the anomaly of fiscal 2008-2009, which included all the bailouts and was jointly shared between Bush and Obama? In that exchange I wasn’t confusing the deficit and the debt: my point is accurate for either. Here’s Factcheck.Org talking about deficit spinners like you:

              “It’s true that Obama “inherited the biggest deficit in our history,” as he said on CBS. By the time Obama took office in January 2009, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had already estimated that increased spending and decreased revenues would result in a $1.2 trillion deficit for fiscal year 2009, which began Oct. 1, 2008. In a detailed analysis of fiscal year 2009, we found that Obama was responsible for adding at most $203 billion to the deficit, which in the end topped $1.4 trillion that year.

              But that was just the first of four years of trillion-plus deficits. The last three budgets fall squarely under Obama. And, during that time, the federal government ran up deficits of $1.3 trillion in 2010, $1.3 trillion in 2011, and about $1.2 trillion in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 — for a total of nearly $5.2 trillion in deficit spending.”

              Heres Bush deficits last and largest deficits compared to Obama’s .

              Obama Deficits——————- Bush Deficits
              FY 2014*: $744 billion—————————FY 2009†: $1,413 billion
              FY 2013*: $973 billion—————————FY 2008: $458 billion
              FY 2012: $1,087 billion————————–FY 2007: $161 billion
              FY 2011: $1,300 billion
              FY 2010: $1,294 billion

              Every one of Obama’s deficits are close or more than twice any of Bush’s deficits, except for the shared and anomolous year. You were seriously arguing that because the 2014 deficit, while still huge, is less than the last one, that’s “not raising the deficit?” Obama has increased the average deficit, rate of increase of deficits, in fact every damn thing about the deficit except in relationship to his own increase of it, and that’s what you called “not raising the deficit?” I wasn’t correcting your deceit about the deficit by using the debt—I was correcting your deceit about the deficit because it’s dishonest and misleading. When the total of Obama’s deficits in an equivilent period is about twice what it was before him, and when his so-called “reduced deficit” is still almost twice the largest deficit prior to the anomaly year (which he also contributed to), No, I do not call that ” not raising/reducing the deficit.” I call that spin.

              Your special pleading slur is only slightly less lame. It’s not “special pleading” when the status of the individuals and the offense are completely different. You need to show me where, in a post, I ever confused debt with deficit, or in another reply exchange where that mistake, if I made it, was substantive. What you cited isn’t even close—I took it on faith that I have in fact made that error, because I make lots of them. Writing this blog, while it ought to be trustworthy and right, is not my job, not an elected position, not a policy position, and not subject to the same standards as a Senator of the United States. If I actually didn’t comprehend the difference between deficit and debt, that would not impact my expertise in ethics and law in any way. If Landrieu, a Senator, doesn’t grasp it, as I suspect she doesn’t, then she is unqualified to serve.

              • Main point: You did the exact same thing

                I wasn’t correcting your deceit about the deficit by using the debt—I was correcting your deceit about the deficit because it’s dishonest and misleading.

                This is a lie. You “corrected” my comment on the deficit by using debt statistics. You admitted this at the time, from the very next comment in the thread:

                “Ugh. You ‘got’ me in my own favorite confusion. My mistake, and let me get out of your trap and explain what is true, and what I meant and should have said: he has added unconscionably to the debt…”

                You admitted to your action and admitted it was a mistake. Claiming you didn’t do it now is beyond the pale.

                deficit numbers

                I see lots of sound and fury about the deficit, but it’s all misdirection and misuse of math. Your numbers require an assumption that all budgets are completely independent. That’s false. Yes, more debt has accumulated under Obama than accumulated under Bush, but Obama’s policies have lessened the increase in debt. That’s what Obama should be judged on. If a pitcher comes into a game down 10-0, you don’t give him a loss if the game ends 10-2. Heck, if the pitcher comes in with runners on first and second, he doesn’t get charged if those batters score. His era is based on what he did. He inherited a budget with a trillion dollar deficit. Since then, he has decreased that deficit.

                Your claim that the deficit he inherited was anomalous is incorrect. It wasn’t a single blip that was expected to be improved the next year. The defict was the result of a recession. The expectation was that things would get worse, not bounce back to better.

                Special pleading

                It’s not “special pleading” when the status of the individuals and the offense are completely different.

                Actually, that’s exactly what special pleading is.

                You need to show me where, in a post, I ever confused debt with deficit, or in another reply exchange where that mistake, if I made it, was substantive.

                Post isn’t necessary. The comment I pointed out (and that you, at the time, admitted to) is a parallel of the question-response where Landrieu screwed up.

                What you cited isn’t even close—I took it on faith that I have in fact made that error, because I make lots of them.

                Writing this blog, while it ought to be trustworthy and right, is not my job, not an elected position, not a policy position, and not subject to the same standards as a Senator of the United States. If I actually didn’t comprehend the difference between deficit and debt, that would not impact my expertise in ethics and law in any way.

                Nobody is suggesting you don’t grasp the difference. You do grasp the difference in concepts; you just screw up the terms sometimes. Landrieu’s screwing up of the terms doesn’t say anything about her understanding of the concepts.

                • Those are not debt statistics; those are deficit statistics. They came off the Treasury site, which labelled them deficit statistics. I conceded the point that I was making the error you claimed in deference to you at the time, but you are wrong. The deficit is the amount that the expenditures exceed revenues. The debt is that amount added to the existing debt, plus interest. Why do you say those aren’t deficit statistics when the government says otherwise.

                  When we get that settled, I’ll address the rest of your reply.

                  • Those are not debt statistics; those are deficit statistics. They came off the Treasury site, which labelled them deficit statistics.

                    I think you got lost in this thread. I never claimed the deficit numbers for Obama and Bush were debt numbers.

                    The deficit is the amount that the expenditures exceed revenues. The debt is that amount added to the existing debt, plus interest. Why do you say those aren’t deficit statistics when the government says otherwise[?]

                    I don’t say otherwise. I think you misread my reply. My guess is that the problem came in here (if not, I apologize for the diversion):

                    “Your numbers require an assumption that all budgets are completely independent. That’s false. Yes, more debt has accumulated under Obama than accumulated under Bush, but Obama’s policies have lessened the increase in debt. That’s what Obama should be judged on.”

                    This paragraph is attacking your claims that “not raising the deficit” has an alternative meaning: “Obama has increased the average deficit, rate of increase of deficits, in fact every damn thing about the deficit except in relationship to his own increase of it, and that’s what you called ‘not raising the deficit?’ ”

                    Obama has increased the average deficit – Yes, the average deficit was increased, but that’s a completely irrelevant statistic. Say you own a car for 10 years. In the first couple years, you have a couple hundred dollars a year in maintenance costs total. By the last year, you have ~1000/year in maintenance costs. If I buy the car from you, and have ~1000/year in maintenance costs for a few years, my average car repair cost is going to be significantly higher than yours, but you can’t use that difference to say anything about my management of the car. Sure, I would like to overhaul the car so it doesn’t have such high repair costs, but you can’t say that I’ve increased average repair costs. I’ve actually maintained repair costs at the level you set.

                    Does that explanation help you understand my “Your numbers…” quote? I’m not arguing that the numbers aren’t deficit numbers, I’m arguing that your usage and analysis of the deficit numbers is invalid.

                    As an aside, “[Obama has increased the] rate of increase of deficits” is just plain old false, even when we strip out Obama’s increase to the ’09 debt from Bush’s record (around $300). All $ in billions:
                    BUSH:
                    07-08: $161 – $458 (+184%)
                    08-09: $458 – $1113 (+140%)
                    OBAMA
                    09-09: $1113 – $1413 (+27%)
                    09-10: $1413 – $1294 (-8.5%) (with 09 increase) OR
                    09-10- $1113 – $1294 (+16%) (without it)
                    10-11: $1294 – $1300 (+<1%)
                    11-12 $1300 – $1087 (-16%)

                    I can massage the numbers to blame $500 of the 09 budget on Obama, that would lead to:

                    BUSH
                    08-09: $458 – $913 (99%)
                    OBAMA
                    09-09: $913 -$1413 (55%)

                    Crazy worst case scenario, Obama greatly decreased the rate of increase of deficits.

            • Nice diversion, TGT. As usual. You can’t substantiate the actual accusation of special pleading so you divert the discussion to a previous argument about whether or not Obama has lowered the deficit or not and pretending like that somehow was the discussion. Slick.

              But that wasn’t the discussion, the discussion was whether or not it is ok for Jack to occasionally make the mistake of confusing the deficit for the debt (which he asserts that it is, and rightfully so). This was balanced against whether or not it is ok for a Senator to “correct” someone who actually used proper terminology, showing that the Senator doesn’t really know the difference between debt and deficit.

              It would only be special pleading (read the link above), if the characteristic difference between Jack and Senator is irrelevant. The characteristic difference between the two, one is an elected lawmaker entrusted with actually composing the budget that ultimately leads to deficit and debt, the other (Jack) is not. That is a very relevant difference, therefore, not special pleading.

              As for your diversion, after following the link, Jack clearly did correct himself on making the mistake between debt and deficit. Something the Senator didn’t do, but actually doubled down on incorrect usage. So not only are you dishonestly pretending like Jack has committed the same foul that Landrieu did, you are counting on no one checking your linked ‘proof’.

              • Nice diversion, TGT. As usual. You can’t substantiate the actual accusation of special pleading so you divert the discussion to a previous argument about whether or not Obama has lowered the deficit or not and pretending like that somehow was the discussion. Slick.

                Maybe I’m having a threading issue, but Jack asked me to deal with that issue specifically before he dealt with the rest of my comment. I did not drop the special pleading issue

                But that wasn’t the discussion, the discussion was whether or not it is ok for Jack to occasionally make the mistake of confusing the deficit for the debt (which he asserts that it is, and rightfully so). This was balanced against whether or not it is ok for a Senator to “correct” someone who actually used proper terminology, showing that the Senator doesn’t really know the difference between debt and deficit.

                I pointed out that Jack didn’t just make the mistake of confusing the deficit for the debt (or vice versa), but that he also did so to “correct” someone who actually used proper terminology. I think you’re missing something.

                It would only be special pleading (read the link above), if the characteristic difference between Jack and Senator is irrelevant. The characteristic difference between the two, one is an elected lawmaker entrusted with actually composing the budget that ultimately leads to deficit and debt, the other (Jack) is not. That is a very relevant difference, therefore, not special pleading.

                The characteristic difference applies to the seriousness of any problem here, not to whether the “doesn’t really know the difference” conclusion applies.

                I’d also note that Jack has written at length about the ethical issues of holding a debt, and has done so as an expert on the ethics of the situation. He has held himself out to have more than the minimum knowledge necessary to talk about this topic, yet he makes the same mistake. If making that mistake shows that Landrieu doesn’t know what she’s talking about, then the same must apply for Jack. Doing otherwise is textbook special pleading. If Jack claims “Landrieu should no better, but I shouldn’t,” then he has to retract his supposedly authoritative claims on the matter.

                As for your diversion, after following the link, Jack clearly did correct himself on making the mistake between debt and deficit. Something the Senator didn’t do, but actually doubled down on incorrect usage. So not only are you dishonestly pretending like Jack has committed the same foul that Landrieu did, you are counting on no one checking your linked ‘proof’.

                Jack corrected it after I pointed it out in thread. The same does not apply to Landrieu, as no one pointed out her error during that session. When did Landrieu double down on her mistake?

                • edit: “The characteristic difference applies to seriousness of any problem…” should have been “The characteristic difference applies to seriousness of any problem here…”

                  In this case the seriousness is what’s affected. In other cases, other things may be. If Jack’s willing to say he doesn’t understand the difference between debt and deficit, he’d be consistent. I’d still think he’s wrong(now about Landrieu and himself), but I’d no longer have a special pleading argument.

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