Debt Reckoning


The Obama administration is playing a game of opposite limbo with the federal budget: When it comes to deficit spending, its operative question seems to be "How high can you go?"

New numbers posted today on the Treasury Department website show the National Debt has increased by more than $3 trillion since President Obama took office.

The National Debt stood at $10.626 trillion the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated. The Bureau of Public Debt reported today that the National Debt had hit an all time high of $13.665 trillion.

The Debt increased $4.9 trillion during President Bush's two terms. The Administration has projected the National Debt will soar in Mr. Obama's fourth year in office to nearly $16.5-trillion in 2012. That's more than 100 percent of the value of the nation's economy and $5.9-trillion above what it was his first day on the job.

Mr. Obama frequently lays blame for soaring federal deficits on his predecessor.
"By the time I got into office we already had a $1.3 trillion deficit and we had exploded the national debt," he said last month during one of his backyard chats with Americans.

The president has a (partial) point: Bush ran up mountain-sized deficits too. And when he left office, one of his gifts to the incoming administration was a giant pile of debt. But instead of chipping away at the problem, Obama has allowed the nation's budget deficit to climb even higher. And his commitment to long-term deficit reduction is weak, at best. Sure, he's committed to reducing the deficit to 3 percent of GDP. But as Peter Orszag admitted earlier this year, his own budget fails to propose actual policies to achieve that reduction.  Instead, it relies on a non-binding commission conveniently set to release its findings shortly after the upcoming election. I think it's pretty safe to say that when a president is a serious about taking action an issue, he usually doesn't choose to address it by relying on a powerless commission that releases its findings in December. Bush's budgeting failures were real, and significant. But they don't excuse Obama's lack of follow-through.