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The White House and Congress are heading for what President Bush predicts will be a "fiscal showdown" at a time when the nation's financial health has actually improved for the moment.
After years of record-high deficits, both parties are now projecting that the budget can be balanced by 2012. But as each side seeks to outmaneuver the other politically heading into next year's elections, the rhetorical battle between Bush and lawmakers over spending has never been more heated.
"You're fixing to see what they call a fiscal showdown in Washington," President Bush told business leaders. (By Danny Johnston -- Associated Press)
Bush used an appearance here Monday to chastise Democratic leaders for failing to send him even one of the 12 annual spending bills more than two weeks into the new fiscal year, and he eagerly vowed to veto what he deems excessive spending. Democrats fired back by highlighting the one veto Bush has exercised: the rejection of a dramatic expansion of a popular children's health insurance program.
OK -- let's start with some basic economic logic -- and there's even a "play along at home" version. Let's say you balance your checkbook every month. If this was the case, would you find the need to borrow money?
Let's apply that logic to the federal budget. According the "official numbers" Bush has performed an economic miracle of balancing the budget with with his supply-side policy.
However -- and this is a really big however -- The US government is still issuing tons of debt.
According to the Bureau of Public Debt, total US debt outstanding is $9,044,256,689,740.39.
When Bush took office, total debt outstanding was $5,662,216,013,697.37.
In fact, Bush has been so successful at balancing the budget that Congress has had to raise the debt ceiling five times since Bush took office.
The Senate Finance Committee earlier this month approved increasing the limit on the national debt to $9.82 trillion (€7 trillion). That boost of $850 billion (€608.2 billion) would be the fifth increase in the government's borrowing limit since President George W. Bush took office in 2001.
Raise your hands if you think a president that has increased total debt outstanding by over $3 trillion in his presidency and has had to raise the debt ceiling 5 times is actually balancing the budget -- or is even close to balancing the damn budget.