The Chart That Should Accompany Every Discussion of Deficits – James Fallows – Politics – The Atlantic

Posted on May 30, 2011




Why does this chart matter? Because it makes clear, in that wonderful “worth 1,000 words” way, two realities that are fundamental to sane discussion of public finance, but that most of the public doesn’t realize and that the Republican leadership is actively working to obscure. They are:

– The very large, but temporary and self-limiting, expenditures for TARP and other measures proposed by both the Bush and Obama administrations to avoid a second Great Depression, plus Obama stimulus spending. And;

– The very large, but permanent and worsening, budgetary impact of the “Bush tax cuts” — which when first proposed back in the pre-9/11 era, were supposed to end in 2010 and were in response to what back then seemed to be the “problem” of a burgeoning surplus in federal accounts! Since “extending” those cuts just sounds like business as usual, I think it is hard for most people to envision the profound and growing effect they have. The chart above helps toward that end — and doesn’t even go into how heavily those cuts are skewed to the “haves” of society. Last year Austan Goolsbee had a marvelous chart of his own on that point.

And as a bonus half-point, the chart clarifies that budget problems would be on the path to self-correction, if the Bush cuts had lapsed as originally planned.

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