One of the stereotypes firmly embedded in the nation’s political psyche is that of the “tax and spend” Democrats. The taken-for-granted “reality” of American politics pits these profligate lefties against fiscally prudent conservative Republicans.
As with all stereotypes, this one has roots in reality. When I was young, Democrats were leftwing big spenders. And Republicans were fiscally responsible. (Those Republicans would never have waged a war and cut taxes at the same time, to use just one example.) The problem with stereotypes, however, is that they persist long after the reality that generated them has changed.
Which brings me to the reality-challenged charge by Mitt Romney and his minions that the Obama Administration has spent money like drunken sailors, a charge echoed by partisans on the Internet, Faux News and other outlets that have long since abandoned even the pretense of fact-checking and/or objectivity.
The charge has now been pretty decisively debunked by no other than the Wall Street Journal, hardly a left-wing publication.
The Journal reports that, even taking into account the massive stimulus spending during Obama’s tenure, overall federal spending has been rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s. In fact, according to the article, “Even hapless Herbert Hoover managed to increase spending more than Obama has.” The article includes a nifty graph, and hyperlinks that will lead skeptics to the official sources of the information presented.
Not only has spending barely increased in present dollars, after adjusting for inflation, the Journal reports that spending under Obama is falling at a 1.4% annual pace — the first decline in real spending since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was retreating from the quagmire in Vietnam.
Why level a charge so demonstrably untrue? Because people will believe it. It feeds into a persistent stereotype, and the “legacy media” that could formerly be relied upon to provide fact-checking has been displaced by lazy “he said/she said” reporting and partisan spin.
Repeat a big lie often enough, and you’ll be amazed at how widely it will be accepted.