THE liberal wing of the Democratic Party, in control of both houses of Congress in the middle of the Great Recession, pursued gargantuan bailouts and created a vast new health care entitlement program.
Normally sensible Democrats went along out of party loyalty.
Together, Democrats tripled the annual deficit and increased the national debt to $14 trillion.
Then there was an election.
The Democratic Party got shellacked, losing control of the House of Representatives. Voters sent a lot of Democratic foot soldiers home.
The truth is, the irresponsible wing of the party has seriously damaged the Democratic brand.
Some Democrats get this and some do not.
Freshman Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., raised eyebrows this week by blasting President Obama on the floor of the U.S. Senate for failing to lead efforts to slash the nation's deficit.
With Congress on track to spend another $1.6 trillion more than it will take in this year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives proposed $57 billion in cuts to this year's budget.
The Democrats proposed only $6.5 billion in spending reductions, a level Manchin said "utterly ignores our fiscal reality."
Manchin said the proposal "continues to sail forward as if there's no storm on the horizon."
But there is.
Democrats currently finishing up their legislative session in Charleston should consider their choices with care.
The party has controlled West Virginia since 1933.
There is no way around it. The state's current condition is their doing, and it's not good.
The party has run up a $7 billion unfunded liability for public employee pensions and an $8 billion unfunded health care liability for state employees in retirement.
State Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, acting as governor since Manchin won election to the U.S. Senate, gets what Manchin was saying.
Tomblin proposed one-time pay supplements for public employees and a 1-cent reduction in the food tax.
State senators decided they'd rather throw permanent pay raises around, but they backed a measure that might have cut the unfunded liability for retiree benefits.
That approach would not have stuck the public with the whole $8 billion tab.
It offered at least the hope of some restriction of benefits, and thus, of the burden facing the private-sector taxpayers who will have to pay for it all.
The House of Delegates, on the other hand, wants even larger raises and backs a retiree health care measure that requires sacrifices only of taxpayers.