Where Did This Crippling Debt Come From?

It isfashionable to say that defense spending has caused America's ever rising debt, or that the debt problem beganwith President George W. Bush.  Suchpositions remove responsibility from current policy makers and place the blameon the bad guys who lured America into wars, or on a president who served for eightyears.

Unfortunately,the cause of debt is more complex than that, and it is important to identify itvery clearly because members of the administration are playing politics with adeadly serious subject. 

Bush'sdomestic policies and his wars did contribute to rising debt, but advancingsuch things as the total explanation for the debt problem doesn't even comeclose to being correct.  Its primarycause began long ago, and it is still with us.

Pinningthe tail on the donkey is ordinarily wasted effort when a nation has a majorproblem.  How to fix the problem shouldbe the focus - blame assignment should be a post-solution exercise. 

Sometimes,however, identification of cause should be clarified up front because thedevelopment of solutions will be impossible without that information.  For example, if social programs that causedthe problem are still powerfully active, they must be changed or restructured;if the protectors of those programs are still active, they must be politicallyneutered, or replaced. 

A fewnumbers below should clarify your understanding of how debt evolved, and shouldprovide some insight into who was responsible for the trend.

Percent Increase

Pres.

Federal

income

 

Defense

 

Interest

Human

Resources*

JK/LBJ

25%

11%

  25%

41%

LBJ

33

25

  56

47

Nixon 1**

41

23

  46

79

Nixon/Ford**

38

  3

  56

85

Carter

62

36

  81

65

Reagan 1**

43

73

120

54

Reagan 2**

31

41

  57

24

Bush**

28

  7

  34

33

Clinton 1

25

-6

  17

35

Clinton 2

37

 0

    7

18

Bush 1**

  5

36

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