NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Deficits and Depression

October 15, 2010

The popular uproar over higher taxes and massive unemployment pales in comparison with the sense of humiliation over the fact that we Americans are quite broke.  

  • In 2008, the public was furious at George W. Bush, not because he was too much of a right-wing tightwad, but because he ran up a series of what were then thought to be gargantuan deficits.
  • The result was that under a supposedly conservative administration, and despite six years of an allegedly small-government Republican Congress, the national debt nearly doubled, from $3.3 trillion to $6.3 trillion, in just eight years.

Barack Obama apparently never figured out that he had been elected in part because massive Republican borrowing had sickened the American people.

  • He took Bush's last scheduled budget deficit of more than $500 billion and nearly tripled it by 2010.
  • Obama's new red ink will add more than $2.5 trillion to the national debt -- with near-trillion-dollar yearly deficits scheduled for the next decade.
  • All of that will result in a U.S. debt of more than $20 trillion.

What exactly is it about big deficits and our accumulated debt that is starting to enrage voters?

  • First, the public is tired of the nonchalant way that smarmy public officials take credit for dishing out someone else's cash without a thought of paying it back, now euphemistically called "stimulus."
  • Second, there is a growing sense of despair that even vastly increased income taxes cannot cover the colossal shortfalls.
  • Third, it does no good for Beltway technocrats to explain how deficits are good at "stimulating" the economy, or why they do not really have to be paid back; voters know that such gibberish does not apply to their own mortgages and credit card bills.
  • Fourth, there is real fear that something terrible will soon come from this unsustainable level of spending.

Source: Victor Davis Hanson, "Deficits and Depression," National Review Online, October 14, 2010.

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