President Bush seems poised to wreck America's budget for years to come. When Bush came into office, the outlook was for budget surpluses as far as the eye could see. Today, through a combination of irresponsible Republican-led tax cuts, a slowing economy, the bursting of the stock market bubble, and a massive increase in defense spending, huge deficits dominate the fiscal horizon.
Worse is coming, because the Bush Administration and the Republican-led Congress are preparing to deepen the fiscal mess. The damage they will do will likely weaken the US and add instability to the world economy.
Traditionally, America's Republican Party stood for balanced budgets. This changed with the Reagan Administration, when conservative Republicans favored tax cuts even at the cost of large budget deficits. President Reagan told the American people that they could enjoy tax cuts, a military build-up, and continuation of their favorite spending programs all at the same time. The result - no surprise - was a series of vast budget deficits that took years to clean up.
Both President George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton had to raise taxes to clean up the Reagan-era mess. Those tax increases probably contributed to President Bush Sr's defeat by Bill Clinton in 1992. Yet Clinton bravely decided to complete the process of restoring fiscal balance, in part to protect the long-term financing of the Social Security retirement program. When Clinton left office in 2000, the budget situation was the best in decades.