On policy changes and complicity

My favorite place for reading about policy – which is why you see it routinely in Linked and Loaded, is trying some new things at the end of this year. Wonkblog, compiled by columnists Ezra Klein, Suzy Khimm, Brad Plumer and Sarah Kliff over at the Washington Post, released their first annual Wonky Awards. Lots of good stuff there, but of course what I focus on is their chart of the year. It’s one from the summer that I’d forgotten about and originally came from this NYT editorial:

[…] under Mr. Bush, tax cuts and war spending were the biggest policy drivers of the swing from projected surpluses to deficits from 2002 to 2009. Budget estimates that didn’t foresee the recessions in 2001 and in 2008 and 2009 also contributed to deficits. Mr. Obama’s policies, taken out to 2017, add to deficits, but not by nearly as much.

An important note to this graph is that while President Obama does have complicity for the debt effects for continuing policies enacted under his predecessor, this chart chronicles policy changes under both. So for the record, continuing a policy does not constitute a change in policy. Therefore when you hear someone say that much of our debt today versus what it was projected to be – even as late as Jan. ’09 – should not solely fall on the shoulders of our current President, they are largely correct to say so. And this even absent the usual partisan spin. The numbers are what they are.


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