Money & Company

Tracking the market and economic trends
that shape your finances.

« Previous Post | Money & Company Home | Next Post »

Perot is back, charts and all, to take on U.S. deficit spending

June 16, 2008 |  2:50 pm

That giant sucking sound? It’s all the data rushing to fill

As the Associated Press reports today: "Billionaire former presidential candidate Ross Perot has started a website to highlight what he calls the ‘economic crisis’ facing the country because of deficit spending.

"The website announced Monday is . . . a play on Perot’s use of economic charts in political advertisements during his 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns."

If you saw his ads during those campaigns, it may be that you remember Perot -- or his caricature -- more than the details of his message, voiced in that thick Texas accent.

Rossperot The 77-year-old Perot, who founded the tech services firm Electronic Data Systems, railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1992, predicting that it would produce a "giant sucking sound" as companies moved jobs from the U.S. to Mexico.

But federal deficit spending was his major peeve. The deficit reached a then-record $290 billion in fiscal 1992.

Maybe Perot helped the victor in the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton, get the message. Clinton presided over a dramatic shrinkage of the deficit; by 1996 it had been cut by nearly two-thirds from the ’92 level. By 1999 the Treasury was running a surplus.

But since 2001 the red ink has flowed heavily once again. The Congressional Budget Office projects a fiscal 2008 deficit of $357 billion, more than twice the 2007 level.

Perot’s message -- that we can’t keep spending like this -- actually is far more relevant today than it was in 1992, because of looming Social Security and Medicare costs for retiring baby boomers.

You just can’t help wondering where the guy has been for the last few years, as the deficits have continued to pile up. Why wait for an election year?

"The American people must wake up and face the reality that promises made in the past will soon bankrupt this nation," Perot says on the website. "Over time, our standard of living, our national security, our standing in the world and the value of our currency could all be threatened."

It’s also strange that he puts all of that in the future tense -- as if nothing bad has yet happened to Americans’ standard of living or to the dollar’s value.

Photo: Ross Perot testifying before a California Senate committee in 2002. Perot denied that his consulting company showed power suppliers how to manipulate California's energy market to drive up wholesale prices. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images