Opinion Brief

The $1.5 trillion deficit: Whose fault is it?

The Congressional Budget Office says this year's federal spending plan will be a record $1.5 trillion in the red. Let the finger-pointing begin...

Just as President Obama is basking in the warm reception given his State of the Union address, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) hit him with a cold dose of reality regarding the deficit. The government's spending watchdog says that this fiscal year's deficit will hit a record $1.48 trillion, a full $414 billion more than the August 2010 projection. The CBO's bleak forecast thrusts the government's debt problem back into the spotlight — and commentators wasted no time in deciding who, and what, to blame:

It's the tax cuts, dummy: The CBO itself says the $858 billion tax cut deal cooked up by Obama and the GOP is responsible for this rise in deficits, says Stephen Stromberg at The Washington Post, and it's time to be "honest about the costs of that spending." Next time the "Republicans defend unaffordable tax cuts," consider this: "Just the interest payments" on the tax cut deal will cost us $50 billion a year until 2021."It's official: The debt is ballooning. Now can we think clearly?"

No, it's profligate spending: The tax-cut extension has nothing to do with it, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. It's our out-of-control spending that's to blame. The federal budget has "increased 38 percent on an annual basis over the last four years," thanks to increases in the defense budget and "unsustainable entitlement structures." Alas, the Democrats "still haven't figured out the math.""Deficit to hit new high in FY2011, says CBO"

It's spending on entitlements, specifically: "The real culprits on the spending side," says Jon Healey at the Los Angeles Times, are our burgeoning entitlements, particularly Medicare. The CBO says that keeping Medicare reimbursements at their current levels "would almost double the deficits over the coming decade." That's what we need to worry about."The CBO lays out the harsh reality"

What does it matter? Nothing will happen: Does it really matter what's to blame? asks Megan McArdle at The Atlantic. The real issue is that, "short of a near-death experience, no one is going to do anything about this problem." Democrats won't cut entitlements, and Republicans won't raise taxes. We need to develop a "credible plan" quickly, but "right now the only serious plan anyone seems to have is to put off making decisions.""U.S. budget deficit to pass $1.5 trillion this year"

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