Thursday, March 16, 2006

Can’t See the Ceiling from Here

[[E C O N O M Y]] * Republicans are continually trumpeting their supposed efforts to keep Americans secure. But I guess that only means keeping them secure against bogus weapons of mass destruction and rumored terrorist assaults on skyscrapers, not secure in the financial sense. By a 52-48 vote, with no Democrats supporting the measure, the U.S. Senate today voted to raise the national debt limit by $781 billion--to nearly $9 trillion--in order to avoid a first-ever default on U.S. Treasury notes. Spreading that debt out across the population, it means the every American--you, me, and the latest child born in a maternity ward--is now responsible for about $30,000 of U.S. debt.

And why must the debt limit be increased for the fourth time since George W. Bush moved into the White House? So that the government can continue to pay for the no-end-in-sight Iraq conflict (which now costs taxpayers $100,000 per minute) and finance such giant federal programs as Medicare without having to raise taxes. Keep in mind, however, that this is only a short-term fix. As the Associated Press notes, “With the budget deficit expected to approach $400 billion for both this year and next, another increase in the debt limit will almost certainly be required next year.” Bush’s 2006 budget estimates that the debt will jump to $11.5 trillion by 2011.

So much for Bush’s campaign promise in 2000 that he would “pay the debt down to a historically low level.” Instead, as The Washington Post observes,
During his time in office, President Bush has presided over a 46 percent increase in the federal debt, from about $5.6 trillion. By contrast, during President Bill Clinton’s two terms, the debt grew from less than $4 trillion to $5.6 trillion, a 28 percent increase--and during the last few years of his presidency, Mr. Clinton actually began to pay down the country’s “real” debt, that is, debt held by the public, as opposed to the IOUs in Social Security and other government accounts.

Put another way, Mr. Bush has managed to rack up more new debt during his five years in office than the entire debt amassed by the United States through 1988.
No wonder Bruce Bartlett, a former deputy assistant secretary for economic policy under George H.W. Bush and the author of Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, recently told a conservative forum in Washington, D.C., that “If Bush were running today against Bill Clinton, I’d vote for Clinton.”

READ MORE:Debt Be Not Proud,” by Robert B. Reich (The American Prospect); “Despite Dire Predictions, Money Measures Always Talk,” by Carl Hulse (The New York Times).

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