Friday, July 15, 2011

A little perspective, please...

WSJ: The Obama Downgrade
Moody's and the boys are citing the risk of a default on August 2 as the proximate reason for their warning. But Americans should understand that the debt ceiling is merely the trigger. The gun is the spending boom of the last three years and the prospect that Washington lacks the political will to reduce it in the years to come.

On spending, it is important to recall how extraordinary the blowout of the last three years has been. We've seen nothing like it since World War II. Nothing close. The nearby chart tracks federal outlays as a share of GDP since 1960. The early peaks coincide with the rise of the Great Society, the recession of 1974-75, and then a high of 23.5% with the recession of 1982 and the Reagan defense buildup.

From there, spending declines, most rapidly during the 1990s as defense outlays fell to 3% of GDP in 2000 from its Reagan peak of 6.2% in 1986. The early George W. Bush years saw spending bounce up to a plateau of roughly 20% of GDP, but no more than 20.7% as recently as 2008.

Then came the Obama blowout, in league with Nancy Pelosi's Congress. With the recession as a rationale, Democrats consciously blew up the national balance sheet, lifting federal outlays to 25% in 2009, the highest level since 1945. (Even in 1946, with millions still in the military, spending was only 24.8% of GDP. In 1947 it fell to 14.8%.) Though the recession ended in June 2009, spending in 2010 stayed high at nearly 24%, and this year it is heading back toward 25%.
As I've noted elsewhere, I believe that there are going to be "revenue increases" as part of whatever package ends up passing. But when I look at the Federal budget, and the debt, what I see is a spending problem. Not mostly a spending problem - entirely a spending problem. And any solution that doesn't approach the problem from that point of view is not a solution - it's an expansion of the problem pretending to be a solution.

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