Pants on Fire

The interminable GOP debates continue to offer entertainment, if not enlightenment. Michelle Bachmann continues to display total ignorance of the Middle East (as Pierre Atlas notes, she clearly has no clue that there are differences between the Shia and Sunni–but then, she has little comprehension of the US Constitution, either). And in the most recent debate, Mitt Romney claimed that Obama’s policies have been the most costly of any President–a clear “liar, liar, pants on fire” statement that may have played well to the debate audience, but is wildly untrue.

As a helpful graph in the New York Times makes clear, George W. Bush’s “policies” cost 5.07 trillion dollars. Obama’s, by contrast, have cost 1.44 trillion.

But what is more revealing by far is what that money bought. Bush waged wars he didn’t pay for–one of which was an unnecessary and ruinous war of choice. Obama’s spending was primarily on the stimulus–to prevent the economic depression that Bush’s policies would otherwise have ushered in–and health care reform. And if the health economists I know are correct, the initial costs of health care reform will eventually be recouped as the reforms force efficiencies and savings in our patchwork, bloated “system.”

Faced with the stark differences between the two administrations, I can understand why Romney might duck the issue entirely. But he is apparently unable to refrain from pandering–even at the expense of the truth.

Commentators continue to puzzle over the “anyone but Romney” attitude of the Republican base. It may have something to do with this pandering, which is painfully obvious. The current base wants authentically crazy, not just pretend.