Letters to the Editor

Look back helps put debt in perspective

For deficit hawks who had no problem with initiating expensive wars, but now object to efforts to jump-start an economy devastated by the machinations of Wall Street financiers, a brief history might help place matters in perspective.

Jimmy Carter (who was still contending with the threat from the Soviet Union) ran budget deficits that totaled $276 billion over four years. Ronald Reagan topped Carter's biggest deficit from the start and then increased it seven years out of eight, adding $1.672 trillion to the national debt. Then George H.W. Bush added $1.462 trillion to that debt, increasing the deficit three out of four years.

Bill Clinton's first budget shortfall was more than $50 billion less than his predecessor's last deficit, and he managed to reduce it for seven years out of eight, ending his tenure with the first balanced budget in decades. Under George W. Bush, the deficit climbed quickly to top $500 billion (each year) for five years running, and then exceeded $1 trillion in his final year. On his watch, the debt rose by more than $4 trillion.

Congress over this entire period consistently accomplished only insignificant reductions in the president's budget. Earmarks were never the problem, nor was foreign aid. The primary causes were tax cuts (enjoyed primarily by the very rich) and two avoidable wars.

Robert G. GhirardelliHilton Head Island

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