Who is Responsible for the National Debt?

default
22
INTERACTIONS
credit: Center for American Progress

On January 31, 2001 the Congressional Budget Office released an economic outlook report projecting a surplus of $5.9 trillion into 2011.

“In the absence of significant legislative changes and assuming that the economy follows the path described in the report, CBO projects that the total surplus will reach $281 billion in 2001. Such surpluses are projected to rise in the future, approaching $889 billion in 2011 and accumulating to $5.6 trillion over the 2002-2011 period.”

The report went on to conclude that despite indicators that the economy was slowing down, economic shrinkage was destined to be short lived. The CBO projected, given that economic policy remain largely unchanged, GDP would begin to rise at 3 percent per year beginning in 2002. “Assuming that current tax and spending policies are maintained, CBO projects that mounting federal revenues will continue to produce growing budget surpluses for the next 10 years.”

A month later, the Bush administration released ‘A Blueprint For New Beginnings.’ The 200-page document outlined the President’s vision for significant reductions in government spending coupled with what would become known as the Bush-era tax cuts. The report criticized the growth in government spending that would be aided by budget surpluses, and expressed a philosophy whereby tax cuts would encourage economic growth.

“[The Bush] tax relief program acts as a near-term insurance policy against an unwanted deepening of the current slowdown and should help growth return more quickly to a robust pace. Tax relief will also help to boost the economy’s underlying rate of long-term growth”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research and policy think-tank focused on middle and low income issues, estimates that these tax cuts reduced revenues by almost $2 trillion from 2001-2008. This loss in revenue constitutes about 20% of the United States’ budgetary shortfalls when compared to the original CBO projection from 2001.

The Center for American Progress, a progressive think-tank, has outlined further contributors to this disparity citing data from the Congressional Budget Office. Their report shows that under-performance of the economy from 2001 to 2011 carved out almost 26 percent of projected surpluses. Additionally, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and increased spending under Bush comprise about 40 percent of the discrepancy between original projections and present conditions. President Obama’s policies including extending the Bush tax cuts and stimulus spending have contributed 14 percent overall.

In raw terms, since Obama took office, the debt has increased by $5 trillion. A variety of factors have contributed to this, including his extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2010 and continued military involvement overseas.

Slower than anticipated economic growth, coupled with government spending from 2001 onwards, are the primary contributors to today’s mounting federal debt. It is possible however, that the Congressional Budget Office was simply wrong in their original assessment, overestimating the impact that policies at the time would have had going into 2011. These figures highlight the extent to which decisions made in the past can dramatically impact future fiscal realities.

 

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


Learn More About IVN

Leave a Comment
  1. Jane Susskind It's easy for people to blame one administration or another for the debt, but it's been building up for a while now. What matters today is how we are going to work together to reduce it.
  2. Alex Gauthier That's a good point. Its important to remember, though, what got us in this position in the first place
  3. Zachery Abramson It's a two sided coin, however, I think the Gallup polls have shown us that the average American let's party-lines and emotional response tint their views on our economy. And while I don't understand the complexities of economics, I think this confusion in the American people allows politicians alot more freedoms with spending/borrowing than accountability.
  4. Clint Two party system is broken. Less Govt, more production. It is liken to voting for the "lesser of two weevils".
  5. Lucas Eaves We need to stop acting surprise. More spending, less revenues= more dept.
  6. Michael Higham I'm thinking that the incredibly optimistic projections in 2001 led government to believe it had room to spend much more than necessary. It might be further evidence that support the idea of wealthy tax cuts doesn't result in economic growth.
  7. Terri Harel I agree. They also thought they could wage two wars essentially on credit, without keeping in mind those wars could very well be indefinite (even after troops leave, it is a huge cost to maintain US influence there, pay aid, etc)
  8. Emma Goda The National debt is insane and we keep borrowing. We need to figure out a solution.
  9. Matt Metzner That would come out to a $21 trillion dollar swing if I'm not mistaken. With that much money spent you would think that it would have multiple causes.
9 comments
Jane Susskind
Jane Susskind

It's easy for people to blame one administration or another for the debt, but it's been building up for a while now. What matters today is how we are going to work together to reduce it.

Lucas Eaves
Lucas Eaves

We need to stop acting surprise. More spending, less revenues= more dept.

Michael Higham
Michael Higham

I'm thinking that the incredibly optimistic projections in 2001 led government to believe it had room to spend much more than necessary. It might be further evidence that support the idea of wealthy tax cuts doesn't result in economic growth.

Emma Goda
Emma Goda

The National debt is insane and we keep borrowing. We need to figure out a solution.

Matt Metzner
Matt Metzner

That would come out to a $21 trillion dollar swing if I'm not mistaken. With that much money spent you would think that it would have multiple causes.

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

That's a good point. Its important to remember, though, what got us in this position in the first place

Terri Harel
Terri Harel

I agree. They also thought they could wage two wars essentially on credit, without keeping in mind those wars could very well be indefinite (even after troops leave, it is a huge cost to maintain US influence there, pay aid, etc)

Zachery Abramson
Zachery Abramson

It's a two sided coin, however, I think the Gallup polls have shown us that the average American let's party-lines and emotional response tint their views on our economy. And while I don't understand the complexities of economics, I think this confusion in the American people allows politicians alot more freedoms with spending/borrowing than accountability.

Clint
Clint

Two party system is broken. Less Govt, more production. It is liken to voting for the "lesser of two weevils".