There's something scary about big numbers. It's one reason we in the media often like to put the biggest number we can find into a headline.

So it was no surprise that most media outlets went gaga over the Obama administration's projection that the nation's debt will grow by $9 trillion over the next decade. And sure enough, critics of the administration's efforts to reform healthcare were quick to seize on that scary number as another reason to advocate doing nothing.

But without wading into the muck of the current debate over healthcare reform, it's worth taking stock of just how much hypocrisy there is when it comes to the subject of government spending and those big bad deficits.

Let's start with the Republicans. They talk a good game about reining in federal spending, but they bear as much responsibility as the Democrats for the nation's $11 trillion in total debt.

It's sometimes hard to remember that when President Clinton left office in January 2001, the federal budget actually was in surplus. Yet by the time President Bush left town, the federal government was running a nearly a $1 trillion deficit thanks to spending on the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, the bank bailout and increased spending on prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.