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Blaming Bush versus blaming Obama: A few numbers to consider

Blaming Bush versus blaming Obama: A few numbers to consider
By Eric Black

Yes, it’s true – sad, but true. In his address to the nation on Monday, Pres. Obama did start out by blaming his predecessor’s fiscal mismanagement (cut taxes, raise spending) and the recession that he also inherited from his predecessor for the large and rapidly growing national debt that he inherited from his predecessor (did I mention that it was former Pres. George W. Bush).

This is of course the cue for Repubs to blame Obama for blaming Bush. I mentioned in my morning after piece that Sean Hannity began his parody of Obama’s speech with “Blame Bush. Blame Bush.” Here’s an example of Mitch McConnell, on the Senate floor, describing how much more of the recent run-up of deficit and debt is the fault of Obama compared to Bush.

These are mere talking points of course. Obama should accept the political responsibility that he deserves for the current predicament. He did say, on Monday night:

 “Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it.” 

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I agree. And I am struck by how seldom I ever hear a Republican or a supply sider taking any responsibility at all. But maybe I missed those occasions.

Anyway, just to call your attention to one recent effort to shed some factual/statistical light on the issue, the New York Times recently published this graphic, which takes a different approach.

Asking which president was in office when this or that dollar was added to the debt (which just repeats the problem that each president is dealing with the economy he inherited), the Times asked which new policies of the recent presidents have added to the debt.

The Bush policies that added to the debt include:

two wars and a defense buildup ($1.5 Trillion), several rounds of tax cuts, ($1.8 T), TARP and other bailouts plus the 2008 stimulus programs, the Medicare Part D drug benefit, and a mere $608 billion in other new spending within the non-defense discretionary category.

On Obama’s tab (and it’s only fair to mention that Bush served eight years and Obama has only served two and a half, but it’s necessary to also point out that the Times numbers are a projection through 2017, which means they would be over an equivalent eight-year period) are the following:

Stimulus spending plus stimulus tax cuts ($1.1 trillion), the big health care bill (which will of course be in the rollout stages for most of Obama’s tenure) ($152 billion) and another $278 billion in the non-defense discretionary category. The Times also gave Obama credit for savings of $126 billion in military spending cuts. (Bush didn’t get credit for cutting anything.)

The totals:

  • Cost of new policies of Pres. Bush over eight years: $5.07 trillion.
  • Cost of new policies of Pres. Obama projected over eight years: $1.44 trillion.