TPM News

For the next several weeks, and likely through election season, Washington will continue to be gripped by the debate about how to reduce federal deficits and the national debt. It's a common focus of legislative preening, particularly after economic downturns, and even more particularly when Democrats control the White House.

So it's worth keeping in mind how current and projected deficits and debt stack up to their historic levels, relative to GDP. The answers will surprise you.

The following graph tracks annual deficits as percentages of GDP over the last several decades. Unsurprisingly, what you see is that they spike during economic downturns, with the most severe spike after the United States entered World War II -- a spending effort that provided the economic stimulus the country needed to finally break the back of the Great Depression. National surpluses shrank as the country entered a mild recession at the end of the Clinton administration, got worse after President Bush spearheaded deficit financed tax cuts, wars, and domestic spending, and ballooned just as Obama took office thanks to the double whammy of a sharp decline in revenues, which plunged when the bottom fell out of the economy after the financial crisis, and stimulus spending to salvage the economy.

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Obama-Hoyer Bond Forms As Pelosi Rejects Budget Deal The Hill reports: "This year's budget battles have forged a loose bond between President Obama and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) while revealing some distance between the White House and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The informal alliance has propelled the minority whip into the spotlight of the spending debate, bolstered his reputation as a centrist dealmaker and even led some Democrats to suggest he should lead the caucus in the looming talks over raising the nation's debt limit."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will depart from Los Angeles, California, at 11:55 a.m. ET. He will arrive back at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:15 p.m. ET. He does not currently have any scheduled public events.

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court race recount is starting to take shape, WisPolitics reports, with the campaigns of incumbent conservative Justice David Prosser and liberal-backed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg agreeing in court Thursday to a procedure: It will be part-machine recount, and part-hand recount.

Normally, the state would have conducted a machine recount, in which the ballots would be re-run under careful supervision. However, some areas with older machines would require their existing memory cartridges to be erased in order to re-run the ballots -- thus destroying an original record of the count from election night.

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Embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) is resigning from his seat in the U.S. Senate. In a statement released by his office Thursday evening, Ensign said his last day as a Senator will be May 3.

"It is with tremendous sadness that I officially hand over the Senate seat that I have held for eleven years," Ensign said in the statement. "The turbulence of these last few years is greatly surpassed by the incredible privilege that I feel to have been entrusted to serve the people of Nevada. I can honestly say that being a United States Senator has been the honor of my life."

Ensign had already announced he wouldn't be seeking a third term in 2012, after his current term was marred by scandal involving an affair with the wife of a longtime friend and former staffer. The scandal put Ensign in the sights of the Senate Ethics Committee.

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Jack O'Reilly Jr., the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, has written an open letter to publicity-seeking, Quran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones, in an effort to dissuade him from protesting in front of a Dearborn mosque. In the letter, O'Reilly tells Jones it's ridiculous to believe that the city is under Sharia law: "If Dearborn practiced Sharia law, would we have three adult entertainment bars and more alcohol-licensed bars and restaurants per capita than most other cities?"

"None of that should be allowed under Sharia law," O'Reilly said.

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Howard Marlowe thinks disclosure is important. Technically, the longtime lobbyist will tell you, he didn't even have to register on behalf of the American League of Lobbyists (ALL), since his position as president is on a volunteer basis. But register he did, on behalf of his own lobbying firm Marlowe & Company, a few months after taking over ALL in January.

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Glenn Beck has seriously irked fellow FOX News host Mike Huckabee, whom he labeled a "progressive" on his radio show yesterday over the once-obese governor's support for Michele Obama's campaign to promote children's health. A clearly upset Huckabee fired back at Beck today with a statement that not only addressed the individual incident but broadly condemned the host's trademark fearmongering against the left.

"This week Glenn Beck has taken to his radio show to attack me as a Progressive, which he has said is the same as a 'cancer' and a 'Nazi,'" Huckabee said. "What did I do that apparently caused him to link me to a fatal disease and a form of government that murdered millions of innocent Jews? I had the audacity -- not of hope -- but the audacity to give respect to the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to address childhood obesity."

While noting that he's "no fan of her husband's policies for sure," Huckabee said Beck misrepresented the First Lady's program "either out of ignorance or out of a deliberate attempt to distort them to create yet another 'boogey man' hiding in the closet that he and only he can see."

Defending Michelle Obama's approach as "about personal responsibility" and not big government, Huckabee repeatedly took dead aim at Beck's notorious penchant for conspiracy theories.

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Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is taking matters into his own hands when it comes to rolling back elements of the Supreme Court's landmark Citizen United campaign finance case and requiring disclosure of campaign donations.

Van Hollen and a group of reform advocates filed suit Thursday in federal court, as well as a petition with the Federal Election Commission, that aims to force business associations and nonprofit groups to disclose secret contributions that fueled millions of dollars in attack ads against Democrats in the 2010 midterm campaign.

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In the buffet of their party's presidential aspirants, Republicans aren't finding much that they like.

According to a New York Times/ CBS poll released on Thursday, 56% of Republicans said they do not "feel enthusiastic" about any of their party's likely presidential candidates. Further, no candidate cracked double-digit support in the survey, which left the question open-ended by not providing respondents with a list of candidates to choose from.

Nine percent of Republicans said they were excited about Mitt Romney, while 8% said the same about Mike Huckabee. Donald Trump came in third with 7%, followed by Newt Gingrich (6%) and Sarah Palin (5%).

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