Magazine article The American Prospect

Bush's Borrowing Binge

Magazine article The American Prospect

Bush's Borrowing Binge

Article excerpt

This August, while everyone in Washington was away, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) quietly published its latest update on our nation's fiscal situation. It's one of the CSO's more enlightening--and frightening--efforts. If you read the report carefully, you'll discover that however badly you might have thought President Bush was managing the government, things are actually much worse.

The CBO's report gets off to a slow start--as usual, leading off with its silly, albeit much-cited, "baseline" budget projections. Assume, says the CBO, that government spending plummets as a share of the economy, that tax cuts ostensibly "sunsetted" really go away, that the alternative minimum tax engulfs 30 million families and that the earth is flat. Then the budget picture, while very ugly in the short run, will slowly improve down the road. Indeed, under this relatively rosy scenario, a decade from now the annual deficit in the regular budget could be a mere $105 billion.

The enlightening part comes later in the report, when the CBO shows us what happens if one scraps all those patently false assumptions. The effects of facing reality are striking. For example, the CBO's more plausible figures indicate that under current policies, the annual deficit outside of Social Security is likely to hit a staggering $1,098 billion by 2013--10 times the ridiculous "baseline" estimate.

To be sure, the CBO doesn't present its more realistic projections in a user-friendly form. Some of the important information is hidden in footnotes, and nowhere is everything added up. But with a little arithmetic, here's what the CBO's nonpartisan experts seem to think is a reasonable assessment of where Bush's policies are taking our nation.

* Under Dubyanomics, a third of the federal government outside of Social Security will be paid for with borrowed money--this year and for the foreseeable future. No president, not even Ronald Reagan, has ever made such a mess of the budget over such a sustained period of time.

* Compared with when Bush took office, the national debt, including amounts owed to Social Security, is expected to more than triple by fiscal 2013, to $14 trillion. Bush's campaign promise that he would continue Clinton's policy of paying down the debt turns out to have been a $10 trillion fib.

* As a share of the economy, the government's debt is expected to rise from 45 percent in 2001 to 79 percent by 2013--a 77 percent jump. …

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