No Ceiling On The Errors of Andrew Sullivan

In Debt Ceiling, Economy, Federal Deficit, Obama Administration on July 23, 2011 at 4:36 am

The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan new article contains many inaccuracies.  Let us count the errors!

(1) Sullivan says “the GOP is fundamentally the party of the Confederacy”. [1]  This is an obvious factual error if meant in a literal historic sense.  Presumably, Sullivan means this as a racist smear.  Today’s GOP is strong in many Southern states, but is also successful in many “Union” Midwest states, the Mountain West, in abolitionist New Hampshire, and in the suburban areas of the big cities of the old Union states.  I have never met a Republican advocating slavery. 

Does Sullivan mean those politicians who win in former Confederate states are illegitimate?  If so, does he also consider President Obama to also be a “Confederate” because he won Virginia, North Carolina and Florida?  Is DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) a “Confederate” because she represents a district in an ex-slave state?  Sullivan’s point is nonsensical.

(2) Where was the Left-wing outrage when Senators Barrack Obama and Joe Biden both voted “for default” when they voted “no” on raising the Debt Ceiling in 2006? In fact, all 45 of the Senate’s Democrats voted “for default” on 3/16/06. [2]  Was Obama then the “anarchist”? 

(3) Sullivan writes of “the Republican refusal to countenance any way to raise revenues to tackle the massive debt incurred largely on their watch”.  Largely on whose watch?

On January 31, 2001, the Public Debt was $5.716 Trillion.  [3]

On January 31, 2007, when Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats took over the US House and Senate, the Public Debt was $8.708 Trillion. [4]

On January 31, 2009, Barrack Obama inherited a Public Debt of $10.632 Trillion. [5]

On June 30, 2011, the Public Debt hit $14.343 Trillion. [6]

The math does not support Sullivan.  The facts also show how tricky it is to access blame.  Many Presidencies split power (e.g. Republican Reagan with a Democratic House or Democrat Clinton with six years of a Republican Congress).  G.W. Bush’s last two years were shared with a Democratic Congress.  Who you blame might depend on your partisan predisposition.

The Obama deficits certainly include the impact of the Great Recession.  Nevertheless, the President exacerbated the deficit with his 2009 Stimulus and subsequent spending programs.  People seem to forget President Obama signed into law two brand new, unfunded tax cuts in February 2009 and December 2010. 

(4) Sullivan wants to excuse President Obama for $3.8 trillion of deficits on the theory it was the fault of the Republican Congress voted out of its majority in 2006.  If Obama is not to blame, how can Sullivan possibly blame “the Republicans” when so many of them took their first oath of office in January 2011?  Some 80 GOP House members first won in November 2010 and others were not in Congress for the alleged sins of Bush’s tax cuts.  Many of the newest Tea Party Members of Congress, such as US Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), are the same Republicans most opposed to spending increases.   How can the new Tea Party members be held responsible for the accumulated deficits of Obama, George W. Bush and every preceding President back to Woodrow Wilson?  Sullivan is inconsistent.

(5) Sullivan is angry the GOP is “opposing overwhelming public opinion on the need for a mixed package of tax hikes and spending cuts”.    A July 13 Gallup Poll found 50% of Americans want “Only/Mostly” spending cuts, of which 20% were for “only” spending cuts.  Spending cuts are prefered. [7]  This is a curious complaint coming from Sullivan, who had no regard for public opinion on unpopular matters like the “ObamaCare” health care bill.


Congress and the President need to come to an agreement to raise the Debt Ceiling.  Personally, I can accept small tax increases in the form of closing loopholes (called “tax expenditures” these days) if coupled with non-gimmick, near-term spending cuts. 

President Obama and the Democrats failed to pass a budget in 2010 and failed to negotiate a budget in 2011.  Holding out for spending cuts in exchange for raising the Debt Ceiling is a blunt instrument but is the one that was available.  Let us not forget it was President Obama who originally asked for a “clean increase” in the debt limit, meaning increase the deficit several trillion dollars with no strings attached. [8]  I am pleased President Obama has found religion and is now interested in a “big” deficit reduction package.  

Furthermore, just giving “clean” raises of the Debt Ceiling over and over again without tackling the underlying problem of spending is no long-term solution.   We need look no further than the pending default of Greece to see what will happen to the USA if we continue to blithely build up our deficit.  My hope is a deal will be worked out in coming days that is a step toward a long-term solution.  Angry press conferences and emotional rhetoric from a prominent writer like Sullivan are no help.    

The fact is it takes two to have a disagreement so if President Obama and supporters like Sullivan really believe what they say about a default, why would they not agree to the Republican “Cut Cap and Balance” position?  Why not give up their prefered tax increases – which they say are so small, anyway – if the alternative is “the country remains in more peril than we know”?



[2]  Technically, Jeffords (VT) and Lieberman (CT) were independents but caucused with the Democrats.






[8] “White House officials maintained Friday that the administration wants to see a “clean” increase to the federal debt limit” in


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