To believe politicians in Washington and pundits in the media, the national debt has become the most important political issue of the day. (Whether it should be–as opposed to, say, jobs–is another question.) The Republican argument is, basically: “Big deficits! Democratic president! His fault!” The Obama administration argument, by contrast, is “No way! George W. Bush’s fault!”
I generally side with Obama on this one, mainly because of the two Bush tax cuts and the unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit. Keith Hennessey, Bush’s last director of the National Economic Council, has a counterargument. Some of his points are good. OK, well, one point–the fourth one down. Hennessey is right that what initially transformed the Clinton surplus into the Bush deficit was the 2001 recession, which was beyond Bush’s control–just like what transformed the large Bush deficits of 2007-2008 into the enormous Obama deficits of today was the 2007-2009 recession.
The other points are good debating, but I don’t buy them. This could take a while.