Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bush's Legacy of Deficits

There has been so much that I’ve wanted to blog about lately, but I just haven’t had the time. It’s very frustrating.
Like the story in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal titled “Bush Legacy of Deficits will Constrain His Successor”. I mean, that headline says it all, doesn’t it?

George W. Bush took office in 2001 with budget surpluses projected to stretch years into the future. But it's almost certain that when he returns to Texas next year, the president will leave behind a trail of deficits and debt that will sharply constrain his successor....
Mr. Bush failed to work out a deal with Congress to tackle the spiraling costs of government health and retirement programs. The next president, if he or she serves two terms, could find the U.S. government so deeply in hock that it would face losing its Triple-A credit rating, something that has never happened since Moody's Investors Service began grading U.S. securities in 1917.
As a result, the ambitions of Mr. Bush's successor to cut taxes, institute universal health care or aid troubled homeowners might have to give way to the reality of soaring costs for Social Security, the Medicare program for the elderly and the Medicaid program for the poor.

Mission accomplished!!! Woohoo!!!
This is precisely what the movement conservatives wanted with their “starve the beast” prescription for massive deficits combined with mega-tax cuts. Make it so that future presidents will be “constrained” and unable to push forward with new initiatives.

The president's critics say his failings are twofold: He has squandered surpluses that could have helped pay down the $5 trillion federal debt. And he has let two terms pass without persuading Congress to take action that would preserve the government's social programs. According to the Concord Coalition, a fiscal watchdog group, the shortfall in Social Security and Medicare through 2080 will total $72.3 trillion, a number that dwarfs the impact of Mr. Bush's spending and tax cuts.

I’d say his failings are more like twentyfold or a hundredfold. In fact, his “failings” are what define his entire presidency.

When Mr. Bush took the oath of office in 2001, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected $5.6 trillion in federal budget surpluses through 2011. Through most of his tenure, the president managed to have his guns, butter and tax cuts without creating enormous budget deficits, at least as measured by their share of GDP. One reason was a surprise increase in federal tax receipts from corporations over the last couple of years. Now those revenues have flattened out and the economy is teetering on the edge of recession.

Mr. Bush and Congress, meanwhile, increased federal spending by 25% between 2001 and 2007, adjusted for inflation, according to Brian Riedl of the conservative Heritage Foundation. By Sept. 30, the U.S. will have spent almost $800 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A new Medicare prescription-drug benefit for seniors costs almost $80 billion a year. Mr. Bush's signature tax cuts, in 2001 and 2003, sapped tax receipts and sliced the projected budget surplus by about $1.7 trillion through 2011, according to the CBO.

And then there was this story in the WSJ on Monday: Rising Cost of Iraq War May Reignite Public Debate

Boosted in part by rising fuel prices and the expense of repairing or replacing vehicles worn down by the long war, U.S. spending on Iraq hasdoubled in the past three years. Last year's buildup of U.S. troops -- known as the "surge" -- and the military's growing use of expensive heavy munitions to roust Iraqi insurgents also have contributed to the cost increase. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, the average monthly cost of theconflict -- by CRS's measure -- hit $10.3 billion in the year ended Sept. 30, 2007, up from $4.4 billion in fiscal 2004.

$10.3 billion per month. PER MONTH!!!!! That’s more than $125 billion a year!!!!
And despite all that massive spending, the Republicans still claim that if we pull the troops out anytime before Hell freezes over it will constitute a defeat for the U.S.
We cannot win with this crowd. There is no objective definition of victory that they can point to. So we have these bizarre debates where the Republican candidates dither about who will leave the troops mired in Iraq the LONGEST!!!
Good luck winning the election with that campaign theme.

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