Dear Editor:

Darrell Branhagen's letter (Decorah Journal, Oct. 4) sets down a laundry list of President Obama's "failures." Since Mr. Branhagen doesn't provide the sources for his information, I presume that as Winneshiek County coordinator for Mitt Romney for president, he is drawing on a publicity kit provided by the Romney campaign.

So I don't know if this mistake is Mr. Branhagen's or in his sources: he lists "an increase in national debt from $10 trillion to $16 trillion (remember he promised to cut the debt in half)." That would take a miracle. Actually, it was not the total national debt, but the annual budget deficit that President Obama said he'd cut in half: $1.3 trillion when he made the promise on Feb. 23, 2012 ("Politifacts," Miami Herald, May 17, 2012).

1. Most items on Mr. Branhagen's list are snapshots -- the situation right now -- with little if any background. But we can't tell where we are if we don't know where we've been. Take that national debt which Mr. Branhagen mistakenly says President Obama promised to cut in half.

In January 2001 the Congressional Budget Office (hereafter CBO) projected a $5.6 trillion surplus by 2011, assuming a continuation of the tax laws then in effect, and a generally unchanged economic picture. Instead, we had a $6.1 trillion deficit: a debt increase of $11.7 trillion ("History of the United States public debt," Wikipedia).  What happened?

According to the CBO, the Bush tax cuts ($1.6 trillion), economic changes ($3.5 trillion, because of lower tax revenues and higher safety net spending due to recession), unfunded war expense ($1.4 trillion), increased non-defense spending ($1.5 trillion), higher interest cost because of increased debt ($1.4 trillion) and Obama stimulus and tax cuts ($0.9 trillion).

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