Big Tent Ideas

PINKERTON: How Stupid Does Biden Think We Are? ‘Three Pinocchios’ For Deficit Distortion

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James P. Pinkerton Former Fox News Contributor
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How stupid do they think we are? That’s a question voters should keep in mind when they listen to politicians make claims.

A case in point is President Joe Biden, whose confidence in our stupidity was on display on October 21. Talking about the federal budget, he declared, “The deficit has come down both years I’ve been in office, and I’ve just signed legislation that will reduce it even more in the decades to come.”

There’s nobody better at playing numerical shell games than federal budget officials. Over the last four decades, there have been at least four deficit reduction acts, and innumerable presidential promises and legislative pledges to reduce red ink. Yet all the while, deficits have mostly increased, and the national debt has grown from $1 trillion in 1982 to more than $30 trillion today.

At the risk of drowning in numbers, let’s slog on. It’s true that the federal deficit has declined in the past two years, since its peak of $3.1 trillion in the calamitous Covid-19 year of 2020. And yet reductions from Covid emergency spending levels are better compared to reductions from another emergency, World War Two. In 1945, the year the war ended, the federal deficit stood at $47 billion. Two years later, it had fallen to $4 billion. That reduction wasn’t good economic management, it was peace.  

In our time, budget experts not on the federal payroll have little patience with Biden’s claims. As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted on October 21, “The effects of Covid relief ending explain the entirety of the decline in the deficit between 2021 and 2022.” A few moments later, Democratic macher Steve Rattner jibed, “We need long-term fiscal sustainability, not apples-to-oranges budget gimmicks.”

Indeed, on the deficit issue, Biden seems to have lost even The Washington Post. Last month the newspaper headlined, “Biden’s unwarranted bragging about reducing the budget deficit.” Fact-checker Glenn Kessler concluded, “the data show the deficit picture has worsened under Biden.” The Post then awarded Biden “three Pinocchios,” a booby-prize that the newspaper reserves for statements that contain “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

Speaking of Pinocchios, we might consider Biden’s nose-growing record on a related concern, inflation. As every consumer can see, prices have spiked under Biden’s watch. To cite some more numbers, inflation has jumped from 1.4 percent when Biden took office to 8.2 percent now.

But of course, Biden has claims to make about that, too. Heralding the passage of the hilariously mis-named Inflation Reduction Act on July 28, he declared, “Experts . . . agree that this bill will reduce inflationary pressures on the economy.” Three months later, we can all see the credibility gap, which has left the Bidenites at the bottom of a truth-pit. So what can they say now? One is reminded of the quip from Chico Marx: ‘Well, who ya gonna believe—me or your own eyes?”

Of course, in a sneaky way, Biden is reducing the debt. Since inflation burns away the value of money, it also burns away the cost of a debt. With “thanks” to inflation, the Biden administration has chipped trillions off its real debt. Yes, that’s a ripoff of creditors, and yes, too, as interest rates rise, federal borrowing costs will rise, perhaps cancelling out the “benefit” of inflation.

So it’s no wonder that what Biden really wants to do change the subject entirely, away from his economic record. As he said on the 21st, the real enemy is “MAGA-mega trickle-down.” Translation: Don’t look at me, look for that Former Guy behind the tree. Will this rhetorical sleight of hand trick the voters and save Biden’s fellow Democrats in the upcoming  elections? We’ll have to wait and see, even as leading indicators suggest it’s not to be.

James P. Pinkerton, a former White House domestic policy aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, has been a Fox News contributor since 1996.

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