Deficit Blues

Nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, Benjamin Franklin observed that it is “better to go to bed supperless than wake up in debt.” During the past four and a half years of the Bush administration, the American people have bought supper on credit and supersized the debt left to their children.

On May 11, with scarcely a peep from Congress, President George W. Bush signed an $82 billion supplemental appropriation for the war in Iraq, bringing the total approved for that ill-conceived and open-ended adventure to nearly $200 billion. Whatever the moral, political, or military wisdom of the war, none of the bill has been paid. It has simply been added to the deficit. In effect, our young soldiers fighting in Iraq will be paying for the war long after they return home-and long after the president has left office.

Still, the war is a relatively minor aspect of the president’s overall fiscal policy. During last year’s presidential campaign, Bush pledged to reduce budget deficits by half over the next four years. His recently approved budget claims to do that, but reading the fine print, David Broder of the Washington Post discovered it will add $683 billion to the national debt next year, and $600 billion-plus each year for the following four years. According to former Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin, most independent analysts now project a ten-year federal deficit of nearly $5 trillion.

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