NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Balanced The Budget?

October 6, 1998

President Clinton wants to take credit for last fiscal year's budget surplus -- and the prospect of surpluses to come. Some experts believe House Republicans have a better claim to the credit, and others say the budget was really balanced by taxpayers who benefited -- and then paid out to the Internal Revenue Service -- when the economy boomed.

House Republicans get credit, budget-watchers believe, for restraining the Clinton administration from spending even greater budget-busting sums.

In 1995, two years after the Clinton tax increase, the President's Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office were predicting $200 billion deficits as far ahead as the 1998 fiscal year -- with no prospect of balance, let alone a surplus, in sight.

  • For 1996, the projection was for a deficit of $205 billion followed by overspending of $210 billion in both 1997 and 1998.
  • In actuality, the deficit was $107 billion in 1996 and $22 billion in 1997, and there was a surplus of $70 billion in 1998.
  • Budget analysts question how Clinton can claim credit for the turn-around, when he did not foresee the trend and balance was never his aim.

Source: Stephen Moore (Cato Institute), "Credit Check on Balanced Budget," Washington Times, October 6, 1998.


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