Republican attacks on Sen. Patty Murray are focusing on the national debt, which has increased on her watch.
WHAT THE ADS SAY: Republican challenger Dino Rossi has an ad on TV that says “Murray voted to double the national debt.”
A new ad from Crossroads GPS, a tax-exempt group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, says of Murray, “She’s increased our national debt by trillions, and now she wants to raise taxes to help pay for it.”
WHAT MURRAY SAYS: Rossi and Karl Rove, who helped create Crossroads GPS, are conveniently forgetting the Bush administration’s role in creating that debt, the campaign said today. In an earlier news release, the campaign said: “Dino Rossi supported the Bush economic policies that destroyed our economy and cost working families’ homes, jobs and savings. And he continues to support budget busting tax cuts for the wealthy that will add nearly $1 trillion to the national debt.”
THE FACTS: There’s blame to go around for our soaring national debt, which now stands at $13.5 trillion and is projected to pass $20 trillion by 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. (Here’s the full report.)
Spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has totaled more than $1 trillion so far, according to the CBO report. President Bush’s tax cuts cost even more, and now are being considered for an extension projected at more than $3 trillion. Much of the record deficits projected for the near future are due to plummeting tax revenues amid the economic downturn, and government’s failure to reduce spending to compensate; in fact, spending has increased, with programs like those in the nearly $800 billion stimulus. As for the deficits in the longer term, they’re largely driven by the projected growth in federal entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which in turn are caused by an aging population and rising health care costs.
So what’s Murray’s role in all this? Murray supported the stimulus and going to war in Afghanistan, but she opposed the tax cuts and the war in Iraq. Entitlements are mandatory, so Congress doesn’t get to approve or deny those, but Murray and other lawmakers from both parties haven’t made the hard choices that would address their rising costs.
To back up the claim that Murray voted to double the deficit, Rossi’s campaign cites her vote for the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Resolution. He calls that a vote to “double the debt in five years and triple it in ten years.”
The CBO report says the debt was $11.8 trillion before that 2010 budget took effect, and projected it would be $16.7 trillion five years later. Those numbers are eye-popping, but they amount to an increase of “only” 41 percent, not a doubling. The claim about tripling is inflated, too: the debt is projected at $20.6 trillion in 2019.
More to the point: The budget resolution contains spending items that add to the debt, but not enough to make a real dent in it. Yes, the resolution contains projections of how deficits will look under the budget plan — but voting for that plan is not the same as voting for the policies that over the years have led to the explosion of government debt. Murray has opposed some of those policies, and supported others.
BOTTOM LINE: The claim by Rossi that Murray voted to double the debt in five years is false for two reasons: the numbers are off by a wide margin, and the vote in question isn’t the cause of the debt. The claim in the Crossroads ad is closer to the truth, as Murray did play a role in increasing the debt “by trillions,” although the ad exaggerates her role, and leaves out the fact that the same charge could be leveled against Republicans.