Think Again About "Blaming Bush"

Great article from McArdle about budget deficits and who's-to-blame. (For the record, I had little love for Bush's economic policies.)

http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/06/the_deficit_blame_game.php

Various excerpts follow, but you should read the whole thing.

Iraq is now at $120 billion a year, and scheduled to decline. It seems churlish to blame Bush for Medicare Part D, given that the Democrats' main complaint was that it wasn't expensive enough, but let's go ahead and blame him anyway: $35 billion a year. The tax cuts sunset in 2010; after that, Obama has to affirmatively act to extend them. The structural deficit projected in 2010 was a little over $100 billion.

But what about all the debt [Bush] racked up? Net public debt rose less than 4% of GDP during Bush's presidency. Net interest (aka Cash Interest We Pay Bondholders) went from $223 billion in 2000 to $244 billion in 2008; adjusted for inflation, and as a percentage of GDP, it actually fell. If we are entitled to expect Bush to close the budget deficit with those kinds of numbers, then we ought to be able to expect it from Barack Obama. Bush's deficits are not holding him back.

But this is what we have been told to expect:

How is a $118 billion structural deficit, $35 billion in Medicare Part D, and a theoretical end to the Iraq presence forcing Barack Obama to spend nearly $1 trillion in 2018? How is it forcing him to spend roughly $650 trillion more than he takes in in 2012?

...

The problem with the budget deficit is not any particular program, or even any particular tax cuts. It is not that George Bush or Obama is a bad person who does bad things. The problem with the budget deficit is that, unlike the deficits George Bush ran, the deficits projected under Obama (and beyond) are actually large enough to potentially precipitate a fiscal crisis. If our interest rates suddenly spiked up, perhaps because lenders were worried about the size of our budget deficits, we'd find ourselves in the kind of nasty fiscal jam that regularly plagues third-world countries. The difference is, no one has enough money to bail us out.

Obama is the one who will have to prevent this. Yet instead of plans, we're getting fairy numbers from the OMB. That's worrying, and it's sure not George W. Bush's fault.