There may be no more pompous and conceited person on the airwaves today than CNN contributor Paul Begala.
Appearing on Erin Burnett OutFront Tuesday, the former Clinton adviser actually said, "I put together a federal budget that was balanced, and it created the greatest boom in American history and global history" (video follows with transcript and commentary, file photo):
PAUL BEGALA: Let me utter a sentence that Paul Ryan if he lives to be a hundred will never utter: I helped balance a budget. I worked in the White House. I put together a federal budget that was balanced, and it created the greatest boom in American history and global history. We did it in part by raising taxes mostly on the rich, cutting spending where it wasn’t working, and investing in things that make us stronger and safer and smarter.
Let's first understand that Begala was Clinton's senior campaign strategist, and after the 1992 election served as the President's counselor. Begala is an attorney, not an economist or financial expert.
The folks that more likely had a hand in crafting Clinton's fiscal policy would have been: Treasury Secretaries Lloyd Bentsen, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers; Secretaries of Commerce Ron Brown, Mickey Cantor, William Daley, and Norm Mineta; Secretaries of Labor Robert Reich and Alexis Herman; OMB Directors Leon Panetta, Alice Rivlin, Franklin Raines, and Jacob Lew.
For Begala to boast that he "put together a federal budget" as Clinton's legal counselor is the height of arrogance.
It is also absurd for any member of the Clinton administration to claim responsibility for balanced budgets in the '90s as the Republicans controlled both Chambers of Congress from January 1995 until the middle of 2001. Certainly, the GOP deserves much of the credit for reining in spending.
But even that doesn't tell the whole story, because the real cause of so-called budget surpluses from 1997 to 2001 was an exploding stock market and a technology boom that created profits and tax revenues nobody ever imagined.
When it all began to collapse in March 2000 - everyone seems to forget that's when the NASDAQ peaked! - a recession started twelve months later sending tax receipts plummeting and resulting in budget deficits every year since.
Folks like Begala all love to brag about the '90s as well as that decade's great economy and budget surpluses, but they always ignore that they also oversaw the start of one of the greatest stock market collapses in American history.
Not surprisingly, the media that adore these people conveniently forget this as well.
It's kind of like the late White Star CEO J. Bruce Ismay taking credit for the extravagance and size of the RMS Titanic without acknowledging that it ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
One final point: historians and economists always talk about how the Roaring '20s ushered in the Great Depression. Why do they not apply some disdain for the Roaring '90s which similarly ended in a stock market collapse and a recession?
Is it because the presidents during the '20s were Republicans and the president in the '90s was a Democrat?
Nah, the couldn't be it.