How We Got the Deficit

As the president and Congress approach the “fiscal cliff,” which will result in automatic cuts to government programs, without a new budget deal there’s one thing it’s interesting to recall. How did we get here anyway? Why isn’t our budget balanced? Why are we spending so much more than we take in annually?

Michael Linden, the Center for American Progress’s Director of Tax and Budget Policy, takes a look at the origins of our budget problems. Check out his explanation here:

Or, in the shortest possible version: this is mostly George W. Bush’s fault.

Note that while Linden refers to this as our “debt problem,” that’s slightly misleading. He starts his graph at zero but that’s not the 2001 debt, what our government owed in total, it was just the deficit, what the annual budget looked like in 2001. In fact, the national debt was already at almost $6 trillion in 2001. Annual budget deficits add to the national debt, of course.

Our current national debt is about $16 trillion.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer