Earlier this week the White House announced that the projected Fiscal Year 2009 deficit will be $490 billion, an amount much higher than originally anticipated and also a record for the national deficit. The deficit for the current fiscal year is expected to reach $410 billion. Among the factors contributing to the high numbers are the cost of military expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic downturn which is producing fewer tax revenues, the $170 billion tax-rebate package enacted earlier this year, and an inability in the Congress to eliminate or trim Federal programs, costs and earmarks.
As usual, politicians and many of the major media outlets explicitly or implicitly have blamed President George W. Bush's tax cuts for much of the problem. According to THE WASHINGTON POST, "Neither [Senator John S.] McCain nor [Senator Barack H.] Obama have been particularly mindful of the budget deficit. McCain has proposed to extend all of Bush's first-term tax cuts, which expire in 2011, and add hundreds of billions of additional tax cuts, mostly for business. Obama would allow only the tax cuts for the most affluent [families making $250,000 or more] to expire, leaving the lion's share in place and adding additional tax cuts for the working poor and middle class...." CNN stated, "The Bush administration has spent heavily on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and faces a large budget shortfall in tax revenue because of Bush's tax cuts and a souring economy." Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) criticized the Bush Administration for its "reckless fiscal policies," and blamed Bush's tax cuts for driving the Federal Government into deficit, saying he will be remembered as "the most fiscally irresponsible President in our nation's history."
While the last statement surely is an exaggeration, Bush has been a tremendous disappointment on fiscal issues. His reluctance to veto a spending bill for most of his presidency has allowed government spending to become irresponsible and to grow out of control. He inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion when he entered office but immediately squandered it - with the help of a Republican Congress, I might add.