A Legacy of Red Ink

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 5, 2008; 12:18 PM

President Bush used to say it all the time: "The job of the President is to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations."

But his legacy will be precisely the opposite. He will have created problems that he then passed on to his successors unresolved.

Exhibit A is, of course, Iraq. But Exhibit B may well be the budget.

This morning's editorial pages tell the story well. The Washington Post editorial board writes: "Seven long years ago, . . . George W. Bush grappled with the supposed challenge of dealing with a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next decade. The president proposed to pay down the debt by $2 trillion during that time, which, he said, was as much as could be responsibly redeemed. . . .

"The final budget of Mr. Bush's presidency arrived yesterday, and the contrast between then and now could hardly be more sobering. . . . The $725 billion surplus once projected for the coming fiscal year (2009) has evaporated. In its place is a $407 billion deficit -- an unrealistically rosy number that omits billions in likely war spending and is artificially reduced by including the $200 billion Social Security surplus. . . .

"Mr. Bush inherited a potential windfall -- and squandered it. The next president will inherit his mess."

The New York Times editorial board writes: "President Bush's 2009 budget is a grim guided tour through his misplaced priorities, failed fiscal policies and the disastrous legacy that he will leave for the next president. And even that requires you to accept the White House's optimistic accounting, which seven years of experience tells us would be foolish in the extreme.

"With Mr. Bush on his way out the door and the Democrats in charge of Congress, it is not clear how many of the president's priorities, unveiled on Monday, will survive. . . .

"What will definitely outlast Mr. Bush for years to come are big deficits, a military so battered by the Iraq war that it will take hundreds of billions of dollars to repair it and stunted social programs that have been squeezed to pay for Mr. Bush's misguided military adventure and his misguided tax cuts for the wealthy. . . .

"Mr. Bush will leave his successor a daunting list of problems: the ever-rising cost of health care, the tens of millions of uninsured, a military that is desperately in need of rebuilding. Thanks to Mr. Bush's profligate ways, it also means that the next president will have even less money for solving them."

The Boston Globe editorial board writes that "the budget is a statement of his legacy, which can be summed up in five words: wars, tax cuts, budget deficits."

What the Next President Inherits

Michael Abramowitz and Jonathan Weisman write in The Washington Post: "The new deficit projections 'clearly make a problem not only for the next Congress but also the next couple of Congresses, and the next president, too,' said G. William Hoagland, a longtime GOP Senate aide and budget expert who is now a health-care lobbyist.


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