Thursday, July 7, 2011

Congressional Hypocrisy on the Debt Limit

Beginning in 1917, Congress established statutory limits on federal debt. Since 1939, these limits have been combined into one aggregate debt limit. The debt ceiling was "only" $49 billion in 1940. Surprisingly, it was actually lowered five times, in 1946, 1956, 1960, and twice in 1963, before growing to $1 trillion by September of 1981.

When President George Bush took office in January of 2001, he inherited a debt limit of $5.95 trillion. On the day of Bush's first inauguration, the federal debt stood at $5.73 trillion. But then Bush and his Republican-controlled Congress went on a spending spree that would make LBJ proud. By the time of Bush's second inauguration, the national debt had increased by almost $2 trillion to $7.61 trillion. On the last day of Bush's second term, the national debt stood at $10.63 trillion. So, during the eight-year reign of George Bush, the national debt practically doubled. The federal budget exploded under Bush from $2 trillion in fiscal year 2002 (his first budget) to $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2009 (his last budget). This last of Bush's budgets was especially significant; it was the first budget in U.S. history to have a deficit of over $1 trillion.

With a debt limit of "only" $5.95 trillion, how did all this happen? Simple. Bush and the Republicans raised the debt limit four times from 2002 to 2006 and then Bush and the Democrats raised it again three more times before Obama and the Democrats raised it three times.

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