Newly elected New York congressman George Santos has “apologized” after getting caught lying about where he went to high school and whether he graduated from college. And where he worked after not graduating from college. And whether he is Brazilian. And Jewish. And whether his grandparents actually fled the Holocaust. And whether his mother died on 9/11.
Santos—who says he won’t resign—is an extreme case, but résumé padding is nothing new in Washington. Who can forget Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s fraudulent—and ultimately apologized-for—claims of Native-American heritage? She apparently even plagiarized the “Cherokee recipes” she contributed to a 1984 cookbook called Pow Wow Chow.
There are folks like Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D.–Conn.), who lied about serving in Vietnam during a tight race but then claimed he didn’t really do anything wrong because he only misspoke on multiple occasions and not all the time.
And of course, there’s President Joe Biden, who dropped out of his 1988 presidential bid after he was caught lying about his own distinguished academic record. Incredibly, he even plagiarized the life story of a British politician whose family were coal miners. (Biden’s were not.)
When politicians invent accomplishments and lie about their pasts, it reflects poorly on their character and shows an incredibly disturbing willingness to cheat in the pursuit of power. But the most harmful falsehoods that politicians tell aren’t about the scholarships they didn’t win, wars they didn’t fight, or discrimination they didn’t overcome.
They’re about the laws they pass. Consider last summer’s stupendously misnamed Inflation Reduction Act, which the president announced would shrink the budget deficit and reduce rising prices. Even outlets sympathetic to Biden weren’t buying that.
What the bill actually does is create a vast number of complicated tax breaks and incentives aimed at “greening” the economy. It raises taxes enough to reduce the deficit by around $300 billion, which is just 2 percent of planned borrowing over the next 10 years. It does nothing to reduce our $30 trillion in debt.
Who is loaning the U.S. government those funds? The Federal Reserve mostly, which pays for all those treasury bonds by printing money out of thin air, the principal cause of inflation. Far from reducing deficits, Biden is making the government’s long-term balance sheet worse: When he took office, the 10-year deficit was expected to be $12.21 trillion. By the end of his first year, it had climbed to a projected $14.5 trillion.
He has also misrepresented his record on job creation, tweeting in September, “Right now, I have the strongest record of growing manufacturing jobs in modern history.” As The Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler pointed out, Richard Nixon beats Biden handily on that count, with 1.3 million new manufacturing jobs back in the early 1970s compared to Biden’s 630,000.
Biden also promised that he would end his predecessor’s use of Title 42 rules to keep migrants from Latin America from entering the country while seeking asylum here. His flip-flop on that that has alienated even his supporters.
Of course, Joe Biden hardly invented political lying, especially among presidents. His recent predecessors in the Oval Office lied about everything everywhere all at once (Donald Trump), health care policy (Barack Obama), pretexts for war and torture, (George W. Bush), and sex (Bill Clinton).
From newly minted congressmen like George Santos to the president, we’ve come to expect—and maybe even accept—that our politicians are going to lie about their resumes and their personal lives. That’s totally unacceptable.
But it’s the lies about their policies that we end up really paying for—and that we really can’t afford.
Produced by Nick Gillespie and Justin Zuckerman; Sound editing by Ian Keyser; Additional graphics by Danielle Thompson and Isaac Reese
Credits: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom; CNP/AdMedia/SIPA/Newscom; KEN CEDENO/UPI/Newscom; Rod Lamkey—CNP/Newscom; PAT BENIC/UPI/Newscom; Cliff Owen—CNP/picture alliance / Consolidated News Photos/Newscom; CNP/AdMedia/Newscom; Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/Newscom; Alex Edelman—Pool via CNP / MEGA / Newscom/RSSIL/Newscom; Chris Kleponis—CNP/Newscom