Right-wing smear machine falsely declares Dem congressman thinks U.S. debt is a myth

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

Conservative media are pushing a deceptively cropped video of Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) to claim he "doesn't believe the national debt is real." In fact, the context of Hare's remarks make clear he was referring to the "myth" that you can't "just can't spend" to put "people back to work" because "this country is in debt," an opinion with which liberal and conservative economists agree.

Video crops Hare to claim he meant the "$13.3 Trillion" debt "is a myth"

In fact, Hare was referring to the "myth" that the government can't "spend" and "invest in putting people back to work" while in debt. In a July 27 press conference, Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) stated that it's a "myth that this country is in debt, and you just can't spend," adding, "Well, you can spend, and every investment we make" is an investment "in putting people back to work." From the press conference:

HARE: My county is furloughing people, when we need people hired. In Rock Island County, IL. It is happening all over this country. And if we let our children down because we don't have the courage to say we can't find the money, that is nonsense.

Fifteen billion dollars a year this country spends on subsidizing our friends in the oil industry. Well how about taking that $15 billion and giving it to these folks in the communities to be able to do things that can actually put people to work. And, this is not a question of the debt. I will tell you, if we can handle these tax cuts for the wealthiest people, if we can stop subsidizing corporations for leaving overseas and taking jobs with them, if we stop the hemorrhage and we start investing in our manufacturers, in our cities and the people that work there, our teachers, our first responders, a) we're a much better nation for doing this and we will see a terrible price that we will pay years down the road for letting our children down when they need us the absolute most.

I'm not going to be part of that, so every minute I have here is going to be spent on trying to debunk the myth that this country is in debt, and we just can't spend. Well, you can spend, and every investment that we make--the two things this government makes a lot of money on is when we invest in putting people back to work. And if you didn't even care about the human toll, every 1 percent of unemployed people costs this country billions of dollars anyway. So it's an investment. So let's get people back to work.

Video cropped Hare to suggest he's debunking the "myth that this country is in debt." A video posted to YouTube on September 13 cropped only the portion of Hare's speech in which he said "[A]nd we will see a terrible price that we will pay years down the road for letting our children down when they needed us the absolute most. I'm not going to be part of that, so every minute I have here is going to be spent on trying to debunk the myth that this country is in debt, and you just can't spend." The onscreen text then asked "$13.3 Trillion is a myth?"

Right-wing media run with out of context video to claim Hare "doesn't believe that the national debt is real"

Gateway Pundit: "Rep. Phil Hare: Everyday I Will Debunk the 'Myth' that 'This Country's in Debt.' " In an October 6 post, blogger Jim Hoft posted the video and wrote: "Brilliant! When Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) is not out ignoring the US Constitution, the fearless democrat is out debunking the 'myth' that 'this country's in debt.' "

HotAir: "Hare calls deficit, debt a 'myth'." In an October 6 post on HotAir, blogger Ed Morrissey posted the video and wrote that Hare "wants to let us know that the national debt is nothing but a 'myth.' In what will almost certainly become a sound bite in House races across the nation, Hare not only disputes the existence of debt and deficits, he insists that Democrats have to keep spending money we don't have ... for the children."

FoxNation: "WATCH: Dem. Rep Calls Deficit, Debt a 'Myth'." In a October 7 post linking to HotAir.com, The Fox Nation posted the cropped video of Hare and wrote "WATCH: Dem. Rep Calls Deficit, Debt a 'Myth'."Fox Nation Hare

RedState: Hare is "in deep, deep denial about the federal debt." In a October 6 post to RedState.com, blogger Moe Lane linked to the cropped video and wrote that Hare's "skill set ... mostly seems to involve lying about his opponent and being in deep, deep denial about the federal debt."

Fox & Friends: Hare "doesn't believe that the national debt is real." On the October 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that Hare "doesn't believe that the national debt is real," and played a portion of the cropped video. Doocy added that Hare's remarks were "a little on the crazy side." Kilmeade then stated that he'd "be a little more concerned" that Hare claimed "I don't really think we're in national debt" than that Connecticut's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Christine O'Donnell said she "experimented with witches, in high school."

Economists agree stimulating the economy is more important than reducing the deficit right now

Krugman: "Running deficits now is entirely appropriate." Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has consistently argued that larger stimulus efforts are needed to stimulate the economy. Indeed, as he wrote in a July 17, 2010 blog post:

Right now, the real policy debate is whether we need fiscal austerity even with the economy deeply depressed. Obviously, I'm very much opposed -- my view is that running deficits now is entirely appropriate.

Feldstein: Stimulus "wasn't big enough." During the October 5 Conference on America's Fiscal Choices, Martin Feldstein, former Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan, reportedly stated of the stimulus:

Before the election, I wrote an op-ed saying it doesn't matter who's going to win. Whoever it is needs to get the ball rolling on stimulus. I didn't recognize how big the hole was going to be yet. But when it finally got rolling, instead of asking what annual level of spending they needed, they asked themselves how big the number could be politically, and they decided it needed to be in the billions rather than the trillions. For all sorts of reasons, it was poorly designed, but in the end, it just wasn't big enough, and I think we all recognize that now.

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein noted that his Feldstein's remarks "suggest the necessity of debt-financed stimulus is not a position that necessarily divides conservative and liberal economists. It is, at this point, a position that divides Democrats and Republicans, but that has to do with the incentives of political parties, not serious disagreement over whether the government needs to step in when demand collapses."

Martire: "Short-term, deficit spending ... is creating jobs and saving the U.S. economy from disaster." In a June 30 piece in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability executive director Ralph Martire wrote:

Perhaps the hawks have forgotten that consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation's economy. The best consumers are low- and middle-income folks, who don't earn enough to save, so they spend their paychecks. That is, when they have paychecks. See, if they've lost their jobs and the private sector isn't creating jobs and the feds cut off unemployment benefits, their ability to spend drops to, well, nil. Which is why the amount of private sector economic activity stimulated by unemployment benefits is greater than any other fiscal action government can take. In fact, dollar-for-dollar, it's five times more stimulative than the Bush tax cuts.

Sure, the long-term deficit has to be dealt with -- but honestly and responsibly. Short-term, deficit spending -- particularly on things like unemployment insurance, food stamps, housing assistance and the like -- is creating jobs and saving the U.S. economy from disaster.

Tyson: "We need targeted policies for jobs and right now, the deficit is not the issue." On the September 5 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, former chair of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers Laura Tyson said: "I think we're in a situation where we're bumping along at a slow rate [of economic growth]. There's a lot of down side risk. I think all of us agree here we need targeted policies for jobs and right now, the deficit is not the major issue. The major issue, slow economy, lack of jobs, 24 million people are still looking for full-time work. We really have to get our priorities right and focus on targeted job creation policies."

EPI's Mishel: "the only real option for increasing economic activity" is "through more deficit spending." In a June 10 hearing before the House Ways and Means Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee, the Economic Policy Institute's Lawrence Mishel testified: "As I have explained, the only real option for increasing economic activity and consumer demand for goods and services is federal government intervention in the economy, specifically through more deficit spending. The safety net programs are a vital part of this picture."

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: "Deep budget cuts and/or substantial tax increases" to balance state budgets will "place a drag on the U.S. economy, impeding the recovery and costing many jobs." In a March report, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) economists Iris J. Lav, Nicholas Johnson and Elizabeth McNichol concluded:

State fiscal assistance under ARRA will end or largely be exhausted by the end of calendar year 2010. Unfortunately, big state deficits are expected to continue through state fiscal year 2012 -- that is, for another 18 months or so after 2010 ends. If states do not receive additional federal assistance beyond the scheduled expiration of such aid, they will be forced to institute further deep budget cuts and/or substantial tax increases. Such actions would place a drag on the U.S. economy, impeding the recovery and costing many jobs. Such measures also could cause serious hardship for many families and individuals that have lost their jobs and are relying on Medicaid and other key state services to make it through this unusually painful economic downturn.

EPI: Efforts to balance budgets "perversely add to economic troubles" and "thus intensify a recession." In a January 11, 2008 report, the Economic Policy Institute noted:

During times of recession, state budgets are hit particularly hard. Reductions in tax receipts and cyclical increases in state spending put pressure on budgets -- and since most states have balanced budget requirements, they are forced to either reduce spending or increase taxes in times of decreased economic activity. These actions perversely add to economic troubles by decreasing the total demand for goods and services, and thus intensify a recession. As such, direct federal assistance to states can help prevent these outcomes and stimulate the economy. In the last recession, Congress provided $20 billion in aid to the states, split between general revenue sharing and a temporary increase in the federal match for Medicaid. The same kind of assistance should be provided to the states once again, with $30 billion split equally between a general block grant and an increase in the Medicaid match.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.