Friday, July 22, 2011

US Debt Ceiling: A Quick Refresher Course

I posted this article in June, 2009. The spending and debt figures were taken from the Congressional Budget Office. It occurs to me that this article, even more valid two years after it was written, should be required reading for voters as well as the ignorant, deluded, greedy fabulists in Washington who are flirting with fiscal disaster for our Nation. Mitch McConnell, Mr. Cantor, Mr. Boehner and their ilk all voted without even a murmur of concern not once, but eight times during the Bush administration to raise the debt ceiling. Other seemingly forgotten hard facts are even more galling.

So, hit the Cliffs notes below. There will be a test August second, 2011.

As soon as Barack Obama's hand left the Lincoln bible after taking his oath of office as President of the United States of America, the race was on within the tattered ranks of the Republican party to see who could scream "tax and spend" the loudest.

The same conservatives who uttered not a dissenting word during the past eight years of Republican "spend and spend" now sputter forth about their perceived perilous excesses of President Obama.

It is time for a review of some hard facts and numbers.

Mr. Obama has calmly and deliberately taken charge, faced with inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the threat of a global financial meltdown, and a laundry list of national and international challenges. And all the while he is pressing ahead and funding promised new programs and change. His Republican detractors, ranting about the national debt, seem to have forgotten George W. Bush's early months as president.

Mr. Bush inherited a federal budget that had been balanced for three consecutive years with a surplus of $236 billion, the largest surplus in American history. Even sweeter, we were running an on-budget surplus no longer diverting surplus from the Social Security Trust Fund to fund other government programs. This conservative largess, of course, came from the previous Democratic administration.

When Mr. Bush took office, the national debt was $5.727 trillion. By September 2008, the national debt had soared to more than $9.849 trillion, an almost 72 percent increase during Mr. Bush’s two terms. And those are the debt figures before the basically unregulated, free-for-all banking and financial system received Mr. Bush's $700 billion Wall Street bailout money.

Hastening things along, Mssrs Bush and Cheney, with the approval of their GOP leadership, doled out billions from the inherited surplus in the form of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Any extra surplus cushion in the budget was quickly depleted as Mr. Bush rushed to invade Iraq which had no participation in the 9-11 attack on the USA, and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The costs of Iraq and Afghanistan were also kept on a different set of books or the US debt figures at the end of eight years of the GOP under Bush would have been even more shocking.

And as President Obama walked into the Oval office, Mr. and Mrs. George W. Bush were closing the deal on their mansion in a Dallas, Texas gated community, leaving the biggest increase in the national debt under any president in U.S history as a going away present to the American people.

Mr. Bush must have erased the collective memory of his record national debt from the minds of the Republican party. With stern faces they attempt daily to paint the accumulated national debt as President Obama's dangerous "socialist" agenda to send America to the poorhouse. Well, we have already been sent there, and Barack Obama did not do the sending.

Here's a quick review:
  • Shortly after taking office, President Bush spoke to the the Republican Congressional Retreat in Williamsburg and blithely declared that his budget would “pay down the national debt."
  • President Bush raised the national debt limit eight times during his administration with no uproar or opposition from the GOP.
  • On July 30, 2008 President Bush signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, which contained a quiet little provision raising the debt ceiling to $10.615 trillion.
  • One week before leaving office, Bush asked Congress for the remaining $350 billion of the GOP $700 billion Wall Street Troubled Assets Relief Program or TARP bailout package.
  • That same last week, Bush signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 raising the national debt ceiling for the eighth time to $12.104 trillion to accommodate the $11.3 trillion all time record debt he left the incoming administration.
  • George W. Bush's $11.3 trillion record debt comes to more than $37,000 each for every man, woman and child in the United States. And it will get worse because of what it is costing to clean up after him while still moving ahead on badly needed changes like national health care to rein in its current out of control cost.
I find it both bewildering and angering when Republican conservatives lambaste President Obama for the present state of indebtedness on America's balance sheet as if it was all his fault, not Bush and Party spending like drunken sailors. As if the previous eight years never happened.

Mr. Boehner, Mr. Steele, Mr. Cantor and the rest of the GOP spokespersons du Jour should all be given special pocket calculators with a built in factor of $11.3 trillion that is automatically deducted from any figures they use to attack the Obama administration.

The factor could have a new four letter mathematical name, the DEBT factor, a word that also works perfectly to describe the Bush presidential legacy.

Graphic with apologies to Cliffs Notes