U.S. National Debt – Cause and Effect

By Patricia L Johnson and Richard E Walrath

Each year the CBO, Congressional Budget Office, releases a report titled The Budget and Economic Outlook with their projections for the period beginning the year it’s released and containing projections for the subsequent 10-year period of time.

Although CBO projections are an interesting read they are simply projections based on data available at the time for a period ten years into the future. An excellent example is the CBO Report that was released on January 1, 2001 titled “The Budget And Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2002-2011”.

All numbers in billions of U.S. Dollars

In May of 2011, and again in June of 2012 CBO issued an explanation of how the United States went from a forecast of $5.6 trillion dollars surplus for the 10-year period of 2002-2011 to a deficit of $6.2 trillion dollars.

It’s not easy to explain an $11.7 trillion dollar shift from plus to minus, but CBO makes an attempt in their publication “Changes in CBO’s Baseline Projections Since January 2001” as follows:

“In January 2001, CBO’s baseline projections showed a cumulative surplus of $5.6 trillion for the 2002–2011 period. The actual results have differed from those projections because of subsequent policy changes, economic developments that differed from CBO’s forecast, and other factors. As a result, the federal government ran deficits from 2002 through 2011. The cumulative deficit over the 10-year period amounted to $6.1 trillion—a swing of $11.7 trillion from the January 2001 projections.”

The $11.7 trillion shift from plus to minus is made up of $8.5 trillion dollars in legislative changes and $3.2 trillion dollars in economic and technical changes.  The Congressional Research Service prepared a report in August of 2011 itemizing the legislative changes by fiscal year of enactment as follows:

In billions of U.S. Dollars

This non-partisan report basically states that if there had been no legislation enacted after 2008, there would still have been a deficit of $903 billion dollars in 2009 and $947 billion dollars in 2010.  It goes on to state “For the decade as a whole, it can be estimated that legislative changes have increased deficits, relative to the 2001 baseline projections, by $6.9 trillion. Laws enacted in 2001 and 2003, notably the “Bush tax cuts,” generated the largest 10-year increases in budget deficits.”

For years President Obama has been blamed for our current debt, but if you look at the difference between the National Debt when he took office and the National Debt now, you’ll see the debt has increased a total of $6.6 trillion dollars. [Budget deficits and/or budget surpluses are added or subtracted from the National debt].

A breakdown by fiscal year of the budget deficits follows:

In 2009 there was a deficit of $1.4 trillion dollars, but if you reduce that by the $903 billion due to legislation enacted during the period of 2001 through 2008, that reduces the total for FY 2009 to $509 billion that can be attributed to President Obama.

In 2010 there was a deficit of $1.3 trillion dollars, but if you reduce that by the $947 billion due to legislation enacted during the period of 2001 through 2008, that reduces the total deficit for FY 2010 to $570 billion that can be attributed to President Obama.

What that basically does is bring the deficit for FY 2009 and 2010 attributable to President Obama down from $2.9 trillion dollars to $1.1 [$1.079] trillion, with $1.9 [$1.850] trillion attributable to legislative changes put in place during the Bush Administration.  When a President leaves office legislation put in place during his administration does not cease, it continues until new legislation is put in place to change.

P.L. 111-312 extended the “Bush tax cuts” which will continue to impact budget deficits until such time as they expire.

The CBO is the budget arm of Congress and CRS is the research arm. These are the people our Members of Congress go to in an effort to find out why we’re in debt and what action needs to be taken to turn it around. Members of Congress know exactly why we are in debt and how we got there because these reports are prepared especially for them.

The major problem we have in this country is the fact that over 50 percent of our Members of Congress are millionaires. It’s very unlikely they will raise capital gains taxes, estate taxes, gift taxes, etc., to their original rates without a knock-down, drag-out fight.

Following is a list of Republicans that are adamant about raising taxes and their net worth for calendar year 2012.  The reason there is a range from high to low is due to the fact exact figures are not requested on the disclosure agreements the various Members of Congress complete each year.

  1. John Boehner, Net Worth 2012, $1.9 million to $5.9 million
  2. Eric Cantor, Net Worth 2012, $4.4 million to $14.2 million
  3. Mitch McConnell, Net Worth 2012, $9.2 million to $36.4 million
  4. Paul Ryan, Net Worth 2012, $2.2 million to $8.6 million
  5. Ted Cruz, Net Worth 2012, $1.0 million to $5.1 million

You may look up the net worth of other Members of Congress at the Center for Responsive Politics 

© 2014 Patricia L Johnson and Richard E Walrath

Patricia Johnson

Patricia Johnson

Patricia L Johnson is a former special assignment writer/photographer and co-owner of the Articles and Answers News and Information sites.
Patricia Johnson
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2 Responses to U.S. National Debt – Cause and Effect

  1. I think those net worth figures at the end of the article are especially interesting and significant. For example, how does somebody grow up in Janesville, Wisconsin, go to school in Oxford, Ohio (Miami), return to Janesville, Wisconsin, get elected to Congress, and then a few years later has a networth in the millions of dollars?

  2. Patricia JohnsonPatricia Johnson says:

    Hmmm… is that your subtle way of saying I added that paragraph after WE agreed on the content on the article? Sorry 🙂

    Had to laugh, I read somewhere that Paul Ryan received Social Security Survivor Benefits after his father died that went towards his college education. Every child, whether rich of poor is entitled to survivor benefits when a parent passes, if they are eligible. In Ryan’s case I believe he probably came from wealth as his father was a lawyer and his grandfather founded some company.

    Not sure if you recall or not but Paul Ryan is the same politician that filed an amendment in 2011 because he “inadvertently” left a trust valued between $1 million and $5 million off his disclosure. I’m about as forgetful as a person can get, but I think I’d remember a $1-5 million dollar trust 🙂

    Here’s the thing though with Paul Ryan – with as much as he has he is incapable of really understanding the needs of the average Jane/Joe. It may be the ‘norm’ for most in Congress to be wealthy, but the fact is the rest of the country isn’t.

    His latest budget proposal has some major cuts for welfare, child care and college grants. YET, as a Republican he won’t even consider the possibility of getting rid of some of the loopholes in our tax code to avoid the cuts.

    If the average person was actually aware of the loopholes in our tax system, that they are not able to take advantage of because they don’t have that level of income, they would be having absolute fits.

    The problem is, most don’t understand our tax code, or what actual changes were made during the Bush years.

    That is probably another subject we should be writing about.

    Have a good day Richard,


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