Who’s Responsible for Today’s Deficits?

President Obama has increased spending to unprecedented levels. This has rightfully caused a great deal of consternation among broad swaths of American society. Hopefully it will result in the deaths of legislation that would restrict our health care and energy choices while killing economic growth.

But which president bears the greatest responsibility for our current predicament? As much as Obama has done to grow the federal government, George W. Bush still retains the dubious distinction as the architect of our current economic mess. As Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute points out:

The U.S. government is deeper in debt than it has been since just after World War II. When Bill Clinton, who actually reduced the federal deficit as a portion of GDP, left office, the Congressional Budget Office projected an $800 billion dollar yearly budget surplus for the years 2009 to 2012. Now CBO projects an annual budget deficit of a whopping $1.2 trillion.

Although Republicans are blaming Barack Obama for this gargantuan budget gap, George W. Bush is responsible for 53 percent of the total, according to the New York Times. Another 37 percent is due to the recession of the early part of the decade and the global meltdown that began in late 2007. Obama is responsible for only 10 percent of the total. Yet the reason that Obama’s portion is so small is because George W. Bush, a big-government Republican, was in office for eight years, and Obama has been in office less than six months. Obama has been spending at a phenomenal rate—on a pork-filled stimulus bill and an expansive domestic agenda.

Thus, Obama is guilty of making Bush’s legacy of massive red ink even worse. Obama’s budget would double the projected deficit over the next 10 years. By 2019, federal spending is projected to be an eye-popping quarter of the nation’s GDP. By contrast, for four decades federal taxation has averaged about 18 percent of GDP. These massive deficits, accumulating as a monstrous national debt, could cause hyperinflation and the prolonged economic stagnation (stagflation) that would make the 1970s look like an economic picnic.

The good news is that Obama still has time to pull the country out of this economic nose-dive. If he fails to restrain the federal leviathan, he’ll undoubtedly surpass Bush in the big-spending, big-debtor category.

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