Friday, May 6, 2011

What Bush Hath Wrought

On April 26, I wrote that the US has a tax problem, not a spending problem. Lori Montgomery, writing in the Washington Post, has more to say on this.
Polls show that a large majority of Americans blame wasteful or unnecessary federal programs for the nation’s budget problems. But routine increases in defense and domestic spending account for only about 15 percent of the financial deterioration, according to a new analysis of CBO data.

The biggest culprit, by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts. Together, the economy and the tax bills enacted under former president George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent by President Obama, wiped out $6.3 trillion in anticipated revenue. That’s nearly half of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt. Federal tax collections now stand at their lowest level as a percentage of the economy in 60 years.
Read that last sentence again: Federal tax collections now stand at their lowest level as a percentage of the economy in 60 years. Montgomery has it right; because of the endless tax cuts and exemptions, for individuals and corporations alike (I'm looking at you, GE), the federal government is slowly being strangled.

Montgomery continues:
Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus, a favorite target of Republicans who blame Democrats for the mounting debt, has added $719 billion — 6 percent of the total shift, according to the new analysis of CBO data by the nonprofit Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. All told, Obama-era choices account for about $1.7 trillion in new debt, according to a separate Washington Post analysis of CBO data over the past decade. Bush-era policies, meanwhile, account for more than $7 trillion and are a major contributor to the trillion-dollar annual budget deficits that are dominating the political debate.
Montgomery's article is excellent and should be read aloud to Republicans and other intellectual prostitutes. But I have to agree with Legal Schnauzer, who says Montgomery needs to acknowledge how different the economy was for Obama than it was for Bush. As LS puts it:
Montgomery should be applauded for a tough, hard hitting article. But she is being much too kind to Bush here. She lays $1.7 trillion in new debt at Obama's feet, while putting $7 trillion of new debt under Bush. But almost all of the Obama-era choices were an attempt to jump-start an economy drowning in the Great Bush Recession. That means the blame for almost all of the $8.7 trillion in new debt should fall on Bush.
Bingo. Most Americans seem to not realize how deep of a mess we are in, how long it will take to get out, and how big the steaming turd was that our worst President handed to Obama.

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