What caused the Budget Deficit (Before the Financial Crisis)?

by Linda Beale
crossposted with Ataxingmatter

What caused the Budget Deficit (Before the Financial Crisis)?

Kash on Angry Bear put together a really good graph in 2006 comparing where we might have been if Clinton policies (bad as they were in many cases) had stayed in place compared to where we were and expected to be with the Bush tax cut and spend policies. Responsibility for the Federal Budget Deficit, Angry Bear 2006. Deficits under Bush were projected for more than $500 billion annually. Of course, that was before the greedy, reckless banks threw the financial system into a tizzy with too much credit invested in too many houses by people with too little income to pay for them. Add the costs of backstopping the Big Banks, and we end up with the trillion dollar hole we are currently in.

Answer would seem to be–1) make the banks pay with a tax based on leverage and 2) end the tax cuts or at least a goodly share of them and 3) reinstate an estate tax that has some bite, so that those at the top who can afford to pay do pay.

Seems like there are at least a few in Congress realizing that item 3 makes some sense. Sanders, Harkin and Whitehouse have proposed that the estate tax should have a $3.5 million exemption and a graduated rate, with those at the top paying a rate of 65% (a base rate of 55% and a surtax of 10% on the amount above $500 million or above $1 billion for a couple). The surtax would mean that the estate tax would hit the 403 billionaires who have a net worth of $1.3 trillion harder than it hits the smaller estates. See Janet Novack, Three Senators Call for Billionaires Estate Tax, Forbes.com, June 24, 2010. Now that makes some sense.

Senators Kyl and Lincoln are pushing the so-called “compromise” that would eviscerate the estate tax by creating a $5 million exemption and lowering the rate to 35%. That is a step in the wrong direction. Especially when Congress is making such big noises about the deficit that it is unwilling to pass stimulus funding for unemployment benefits to support Americans hard hit by the Great Recession.