Bush's Legacy: Debt

September 25th 2008

UNITED STATES - The Bush legacy is going to include a nasty four-letter word: debt.

On second thought, make that staggering, long-term debt, perhaps in excess of $11 trillion, that will tie the hands of the next president and Congress, to say nothing of imposing a crushing burden on taxpayers.

Just a few months ago, the Iraq war looked like the biggest thing in the eight-year era of the second President Bush, during which his party controlled Congress for six years.

Just a couple of Sunday mornings ago, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post said on national television that the war in Iraq “is probably the most important thing going on right now,” adding that in January the war in Iraq will be topic one in the next administration, and topic two will be the war in Afghanistan.

Now the country suddenly is facing a financial crisis fraught with the possibility of unprecedented economic disaster.

If that isn’t enough to make you reach for the antacid tablets, the president still has about three months left in office, plenty of time for yet another calamitous turn of events.

The national debt was about $5.7 trillion when Bush took office in January 2001. Today, after almost eight years and a couple of wars, the debt has risen to about $9.7 trillion.

And, by the way, that figure might rise another $1 trillion or so before Bush steps down on Jan. 20.

The national debt ceiling today is $10.6 trillion. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wants Congress to raise that to $11.3 trillion to clear the decks for massive borrowing to deal with the nation’s financial crisis.

A national debt of $11.3 trillion would come to more than $37,000 each for every man, woman and child in the United States.

And all this comes during an era of allegedly conservative, fiscally responsible Republican domination in Washington.