Brian Riedl, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, takes on the assertion made by many Democrats that it was the Bush Tax Cuts and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that drove our federal deficit to monstrous levels. Riedl writes that there was never an actual surplus that was removed by the cuts, and that President Obama’s assertions about the Bush administration’s impact on the size of the debt before he took office are simply incorrect. Instead, it is the decline in revenues from a down economy and increased government spending that have pushed the deficit to these levels.
The Democrats routinely assert that the Bush tax cuts wiped out the budget surpluses that existed under the Clinton Administration. This idea is simply not true because the surplus never existed. It was a projection made by the Congressional Budget Office which assumed the continued late 90’s economic growth and record high tax revenues. Out of the total swing of $11.7 trillion dollars from the CBO estimate to our current $6.1 trillion deficit, the Bush tax cuts accounted for only $1.7 trillion of the shift. The majority of the change comes from economic revisions and new spending. Other factors include interest on the debt, as well as President Obama’s stimulus bill.
The sudden explosion of a budget deficit in 2009 to over $1 trillion dollars came from falling revenues and stimulus spending. President Obama’s targets are also arbitrary, ignoring the massive debts being placed on the American people by Social Security, Medicare, anti-poverty programs and other discretionary spending. The current administration’s policies will grow our projected deficit to $13 trillion, with only $4.7 trillion attributable to the policies of the Bush Administration (the tax cuts, wars and the Medicare drug program). The administration also intends to continue spending, averaging 20.3% of GDP while taking in only approximately 18% in tax revenue.
This means that the administration’s current policies will continue to dig our deficit hole deeper and deeper. While the Bush administration is far from blameless in the growth of our national debt, it is a straw man for the Democrats to point at while they continue their free spending policies that have accumulated more debt in one year than George Bush did in eight.