George W. Bush will be known for many things when his time as president of the United States ends, but one thing sets his time in office apart from all others before him: the incredible amount of debt he was able to add to the country’s balance sheet. He has only got a couple months left in office, but he is doing his best to make those months count and really increase his records. October was the single biggest month in history for marking up additional debt. Last month, we racked up more than $500 billion in new debt, and November just might break that record. When President Bush was sworn into office, the federal debt stood at $5.7 trillion, according CBS News; today it is more than $10.5 trillion. In a little less than eight years, President Bush has managed to almost double the national debt, which is quite an accomplishment.
In the last four months, we have rung up more than $1 trillion in new debt, and at the pace we are going now, we should expect to see another trillion or so added before Bush leaves office. When all is said and done, we could very well be looking at a national debt of between $11 and $12 trillion. These are ridiculous numbers we are talking about here, and I hope that we all can grasp how truly enormous they are.
President Bush’s spending sprees are certainly not going to help the next president at all. The next president is going to inherit a financial situation that is unprecedented, and that will be extremely difficult to manage, to say the least. Each candidate has a long list of changes they would like to make, programs they would like to enact or tax cuts they would like to offer. The truth is with the national debt and economy where they are right now, they are going to be hard-pressed to add anything new to the budget. If they want to have any hope of getting out from under this mess, then they need to raise taxes and cut spending dramatically. The additional money from these activities would then need to go directly to paying down the debt, not to new programs. It is going to be extremely hard to have that sort of fiscal discipline, especially considering the promises the candidates are making to the American people, but it is exactly what we need.
In reality, what do I expect to happen? I think the next president will probably end up enacting some of their key programs regardless of the fact that in so doing, they are adding to the deficit. Their goal will probably end up being to leave office with the national debt only a couple trillion dollars higher. The truth is most Americans are more interested in what they are going to get--tax cuts, health care and so on--than the national debt. Sure, they might know that the debt is trillions of dollars, but what does that really mean? So far it hasn’t hurt our ability to borrow more money, or anything else for that matter. Since it really is not hurting us now, it's no big deal right? Politicians know this is probably how many Americans feel, and as long as they can follow Bush’s poor showing by keeping debt levels lower than he did, no one is really going to pay attention to their spending. Plus they can always blame Bush’s failed policies which they had to deal with, and the added interest payments as well stemming from all the new debt he added.
I sure hope I’m wrong and that the new president really tightens America’s belt to help us get out of this hole, but I seriously doubt it is going to happen. Unfortunately, America still doesn’t get it, and until they do no fiscally sound politician is going to stand a chance of survival. Americans are still all about what’s in it for them right now, and they don’t care about who or what is going to pay for it. The sad part is that it will be future generations paying for our greed, and that just isn’t fair in my book. You can bet that our children will be faced with higher taxes and tougher living conditions because of this national debt. Someday our kids are going to look back at the legacy of George W. Bush and despise him for what he contributed to the situation they are living in. He very well may become the most hated president of all time--assuming, of course, he hasn’t earned that title already.