What’s to blame for the federal budget deficit?
A new Gallup Poll found that most Americans blame federal spending on wasteful or unnecessary programs.
“The large majority of Americans say spending too much money on unneeded or wasteful federal programs is to blame for the federal budget deficit, while 22% say the deficit is a consequence of not raising enough in taxes to pay for needed programs,” wrote Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll.
The poll showed that 91 percent of Republicans blame too much federal spending for the deficit, compared to 73 percent of Independents and 56 percent of Democrats.
Only 7 percent of Republicans identified the source of the deficit problem with the failure to raise taxes, compared to 20 percent of Independents and 38 percent of Democrats.
Public opinion appears to be out of step with historical facts.
Ten years ago, the nation had a $2 trillion nest egg. This year the nation is expected to owe in excess of $10 trillion.
“The nation’s unnerving descent into debt began a decade ago with a choice, not a crisis,” said the Washington Post.
“The biggest culprit [for the federal deficit], by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts,” said the newspaper.
The Post news story said: “Together, the economy and the tax bills enacted under former president George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent by President Obama, wiped out $6.3 trillion in anticipated revenue. That’s nearly half of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt. Federal tax collections now stand at their lowest level as a percentage of the economy in 60 years.”
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan added $1.3 trillion to the deficit, while the prescription drug benefit program added $272 billion and the bank bailout initiative added $16 billion, said the newspaper.
“All told, Obama-era choices account for about $1.7 trillion in new debt,” said the Post. “Bush-era policies, meanwhile, account for more than $7 trillion and are a major contributor to the trillion-dollar annual budget deficits.”
The newspaper recalled that the nation’s surplus became a presidential campaign issue in 2000.
Vice President Al Gore pledged to protect the surplus with a “lockbox” for Social Security and Medicare, while Texas Gov. George Bush argued for tax cuts.
With his election, Bush pushed through massive tax cuts.
Former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee when the 2001 tax cuts were made, told the Post that the “floodgates” of spending opened at the same time taxes were cut.
“Nobody would have thought that all these things would have happened after you cut taxes,” said Domenici. “That you’d have two wars and not pay for them. That you’d have another recession. A huge extravaganza of expenditures.”
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of six U.S. senators, known as the Gang of Six, have advanced the idea of shared sacrifice. That is, spending cuts and increasing revenue.