Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yes, this is George Bush's mess

Great article in the NY Times:
The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing. It’s a reflection of the fact that both the 2001 recession and the current one reduced tax revenue, required more spending on safety-net programs and changed economists’ assumptions about how much in taxes the government would collect in future years.

About 33 percent of the swing stems from new legislation signed by Mr. Bush. That legislation, like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.

Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

If the analysis is extended further into the future, well beyond 2012, the Obama agenda accounts for only a slightly higher share of the projected deficits.
So, no, our fiscal nightmare isn't President Obama's fault, and conservatives should stop lying and saying it is. They don't give a damn about out of control deficit spending until it's Democrats doing it. On the other hand, as the article also points out, the Obama administration doesn't (yet) have a serious plan to fix this. However, it is clear they recognize the problem and are beginning to take some steps. The Obama administration recently announced its desire to see "pay as you go" legislation in Congress. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has said he'll introduce a bill soon as early as next week. It's not enough, but it's a start.

Of course, those "fiscal conservative" Republicans oppose it.

UPDATE: Good follow-up article from The New Republic.

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