The budget deficit went from a net positive position during the Clinton-Gore administration to unsustainable levels during the Bush-Cheney administration and was then reined in substantially during the Obama-Biden administration.
- /alarmism: why the current deficit levels are not anything to panic about
- A budget deficit is the amount of shortfall between income and spending. Debt increases when there is a budget deficit and decreases when there is a budget surplus.
The 2008 financial meltdown seems almost to have been engineered for the purpose of generating panic and concern over the deficit, and the Republicans have been using it in exactly that way: to argue for cuts that will not make a significant difference to the budget but that will increase the general level of chaos in the US and elsewhere, leading to more uncertainty and fear, leading to an increasingly panicked and gullible citizenry.
This manipulation seems to be coming to a head in 2011, with draconian budget cuts and accompanying anti-democratic legislation by newly-elected "Tea Party" Republican politicians at the state level leading to enormous public protest in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, among others.
At the federal level, Republican lawmakers attempted to cut funding for services such as NPR and Planned Parenthood, arguing that these were necessary in order to balance the budget. None of the items they suggested, however, were substantial portions of US discretionary spending, and they finally had to back down rather than risk a politically-damaging government shutdown.
Republicans have also been spreading claims that US Social Security is non-solvent, and that cuts need to be made; many people appear to have been at least partly convinced by this. Aside from being a wildly incorrect claim, reducing Social Security benefits would be unethical, since that would essentially be stealing from those who paid into the system with the promise that they would be taken care of after retirement. (See US/Social Security/myths.) This argument serves solely to undermine people's sense of security.
The single change which would come closest to balancing the budget is to restore personal income tax to pre-Bush levels, although this would not solve the problem completely.
- 2011-04-14 Senate passes 2011 funding bill, rejects measures to defund Planned Parenthood and health care
- 2011-04-13 "Patriotic Millionaires": Raise our taxes, please!
- 2010-11-13 Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget (note: does not function in Firefox under Linux; works with Google Chrome): we should be demanding tools like this for every budget battle
- 2015/02/04 [L..T] Paul Ryan's First Tax Legislation Adds Nearly $100 Billion To Deficit "The first bills promoted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as the new chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee would add nearly $100 billion to the deficit over 10 years. [..] Ryan, a deficit hawk during his time as the chairman of the Budget Committee for the previous six years, made his fame proposing budgets that aimed to dramatically cut domestic spending and balance the budget within a decade."
- 2014/06/11 [L..T] U.S. Budget Deficit Narrows as Economy, Jobs Boost Revenue "The U.S. posted a $130 billion budget deficit in May and the smallest shortfall for the first eight months of a fiscal year since 2008, as a stronger economy and rising employment bolster revenue."
- 2014/04/24 [L..T] The Economic Argument Is Over – And Paul Krugman Won "Once the error was corrected, the "90% debt-to-GDP threshold" instantly disappeared. Higher government debt levels still correlated with slower economic growth, but the relationship was not nearly as pronounced. And there was no dangerous point-of-no-return that countries had to avoid exceeding at all costs."
- 2014/04/09 [L..T] Retiring the A-10 Early Puts Troops' Lives at Risk