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Column: Obama owns the debt now
January 21, 2013
8:09 pm
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blackvault
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"USA Today" wrote: [img=center]http://www.gannett-cdn.com/media/USATODAY/USATODAY/2013/01/14/bushchart-4_3_r541_c540.jpg?729ef1a5e3c69f5da0197e57e2bd3dd3fdfcd35f[/img]

By: Glenn Harlan Reynolds

The debt is up about 60% since Obama took office. This can't go on forever.

President Obama, the Democrats, and plenty of Republicans in Congress, would like it if you'd spend the next few weeks talking about gun control. That's because when you are, you're not talking about the country's financial situation.

And, as the graph included here, taken from OMB budget data, illustrates, the situation is dire. Spending keeps going up. Revenues, however, are not. And, since we're borrowing the difference, President Obama has what Politico is calling a debt problem: "The staggering national debt — up about 60% from the $10 trillion Obama inherited when he took office in January 2009 — is the single biggest blemish on Obama's record, even if the rapid descent into red began under President George W. Bush. Obama has long emphasized Bush's role in digging the immense hole. But he owns it now."

Well, things did start to go south under Bush. But look at that graph more closely. In 2003, when we invaded Iraq (one of those "two wars on the credit card" that Obama likes to blame for the debt), and when we passed the Bush tax cuts (the other thing Obama likes to blame for the debt) revenue actually started to climb. The revenue and spending lines start to converge, and, as they head up to 2006 it actually looks as if the two might cross, with revenue outpacing spending.

Even the New York Times noticed, spotting unexpected increases in revenue in 2005, and in 2006 noting that a "surprising" increase in tax revenues was closing the budget gap. The heady possibility of surpluses was in the air. But -- look at the graph again -- everything changes in 2007.

What happened in 2007? The financial crisis hadn't struck yet. But we did elect a new Democratic Congress, with Democrats controlling both houses for the first time in over a decade. The trend immediately reversed, and became much worse with President Obama's election in 2008 and inauguration in 2009. (In fact, despite talk of "wars on the credit card," we could save a lot of money by cutting defense spending back to where it was in 2007.)

So does that mean that the ballooning debt is all Obama's fault? No. Most of those spending bills got Republican votes, too. But it does mean that, as Politico notes, Obama now owns the 60% increase in the debt that has occurred on his watch, and can no longer credibly blame Bush (under whom plenty of Democrats voted for spending bills).

Economist Herbert Stein observed that something that can't go on forever, won't. The United States can't go on forever increasing its debt by 60% every four years. Therefore, it won't. The only question is how things will stop -- smoothly or catastrophically.

As we head into the next debt-ceiling debate, it's worth considering these words from a patriotic senator concerned with America's future:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. . . . It is a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies. … Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit."

The senator? Sen. Barack Obama, in 2006.

I wish that guy was President now.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee. He blogs at InstaPundit.com.

In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2 ... s/1830363/

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John Greenewald, Jr.
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January 22, 2013
10:07 pm
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