The one chart that explains the nation's debt troubles

debt3.jpeg Tonight's convention speeches will focus on how President Obama has added huge amounts of red ink to the nation's debt. The reality is quite different. This chart illustrates that the single policy most responsible for the increase in U.S. debt is the Bush tax cuts (that's the top layer), which President Obama and the Republicans extended and which Republicans want to make permanent. (Obama and the Democrats in Congress also want them extended, but only for those making under $250,000). After that comes the economic crisis and after that comes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there's the stimulus and specific rescue efforts like TARP (most of which has been paid back). From the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

If we didn't have all that? If there'd been no Bush tax cuts, no wars, no financial crisis and everything else had been the same? Debt would be between 20 and 30 percent of GDP today, rather than almost 100 percent. Now, the response you sometimes get to this graph is yes, that's true, but Obama should have done more about the debt. But Obama has proposed a multi-trillion dollar deficit reduction plan. Republicans just refused to pass it. And, to be fair, he refused to sign their plan, too. So the question then is less about what led to the debt and more about who has the right plan to get rid of it.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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