George W. Bush’s Tab

Jun 12 2012 @ 10:53am

BUSHTomPennington:Getty

Bruce Bartlett tallies it. The damage this single president did to the core of the country's fiscal health – and our ability to weather a storm like 2007 – 2009 – is hard to find parallels with. Money quote:

Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.

When you check reality, rather than the alternate universe constantly created by Fox News and an amnesiac press, you find that Bush had a chance to pay off all our national debt before we hit the financial crisis – giving the US enormous flexibility in intervening to ameliorate the recession. Instead, we had to find money for a stimulus in a cupboard stripped bare – its contents largely given away, by an act of choice. I'm tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it – and remind people that Romney's policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical. With one difference: Bush pledged never "to balance the budget on the backs of the poor."

Mitt Romney has no qualms about doing that very thing. And he will, if he is given the chance.

(Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty.)