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The Four Trillion Dollar Man

A new CBO report brings some bad news for President Obama: The budget deficit is likely to exceed one trillion dollars four the fourth year in a row. To make matters worse, the falling unemployment rates of the past few months are not expected to last, and the CBO predicts a return to 8.9 percent unemployment by election day. This would make Obama the first president to run trillion dollar deficits during each year in office.

Younger readers may not appreciate this, but we at Via Meadia remember the days when trillions were numbers only discussed in astronomy class. This changed in the 1980s, when the word made its way into discussions of Japanese GDP — in yen and not long after that the total US national debt shocked us all by hitting a trillion.

Now President Obama will be remembered as the man who brought trillions into America’s deficit discussions. It’s no comfort to be reminded that a trillion dollars today is only about $100 billion in 1950s dollars; that a dollar today is only as much as a dime was back then only goes to show just how destructive of value national profligacy can be.

President Obama’s defenders can and do point out that much of our deficit results from policy decisions made by George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress.  Fair enough, though if the current President has proposed a balanced budget in the past four years,  or even a plan to balance the budget anytime in the foreseeable future, Via Meadia somehow missed the announcement.

It was back in the days of the second President Harrison (1889-1893) that Congress shocked the country with the first billion dollar peacetime budget — and in those days a Congressional budget still covered two years.  House Speaker Thomas Reed defended the billion dollar budget by saying, “This is a billion dollar country.”

At the rate we are going, we will soon be a quadrillion dollar country — but don’t worry.  The money will be worth so little that a gazillion dollar deficit will be no problem at all.

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  • Gary L

    During the first two years of Harrison’s presidency (1889-1890). The 51st Congress passed 531 laws, an unprecedented level of accomplishment unmatched until Teddy Roosevelt’s second term. Henry Cabot Lodge wrote, “No Congress in peace time has passed so many great & important measures of lasting value to the people” Measures relating to reorganizing the federal courts, naval expansion, tariffs, internal improvements, naval expansion, and subsidies for steamship lines. Harrison also signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act “to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies,” the first Federal act attempting to regulate trusts. One sign of Harrison‘s activism can be seen in the increase of federal workers. In 1871, the federal government employed 51,000 people, but 20 years later in 1891, more than 157,000 people work directly for Uncle Sam.

    The American public didn’t care much for the massive budget increases – the GOP lost 93 congressional seats in the 1890 elections, giving Democrats a 3 to 1 majority in the House.

  • Mrs. Davis

    that a dollar today is only as much as a dime was back then only goes to show just how destructive of value fiat currency can be.


  • Toni

    “A new CBO report brings some bad news for President Obama: The budget deficit is likely to exceed one trillion dollars four [sic] the fourth year in a row.”

    This might have been better and more accurately worded:

    “Budget deficits have exceeded one trillion dollars each year since President Obama took office, and this is likely to be the fourth, says a new CBO report. Bad news for us all.”

    Not that it’s all his fault. Congress — whose constitutional duty is to fund the government — hasn’t passed a budget bill since April 2009. All the news we hear about budget battles on Capitol Hill concern continuing resolutions, i.e., bills to fund the government a little while longer, until the next continuing resolution is needed.

    Here’s an irony. President Obama gave his State of the Union speech precisely 1,000 days after that last complete budget passed. But then, the last budget he submitted, in 2011, was so lame that the Senate voted it down by 97-0.

  • Jim.

    Whatever his good characteristics, and whatever the good intentions of the programs he proposes, the fact that Obama has burdened my generation and my childrens’ generation with such a huge liability is enough to make him WORST president in history.

    Trillions in new debt, and NOTHING to show for it. The enormity of it boggles the mind.

  • Kris

    Jim@4, “NOTHING to show for it”? Surely all that debt is a piddling price for the opportunity to say that we have/had a Black president!

    [The above is (barely) satire. The author doesn’t care about the Indebtor-in-Chief’s skin color.]

    [I put in the disclaimer and capitalized “Black.” I think I should be safe.]

  • Toni

    But Kris, he’s not Black — which here denotes native descendents of slavery and later American apartheid. (I think.) His father was African.

    The identity wars are impossible to win.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    It is wrong to speak of inflation when the American home owners have lost $7 Trillion in equity in our DEFLATING economy, and wages are falling in the face of Depression era levels of unemployment. You are confusing Energy Supply created inflation at the consumer level, with Money Supply created inflation which doesn’t exist, as the M3 measure of money supply is still $500 Billion below its $15 Trillion peak, despite $2.3+ Trillion in Fed printing. Welcome to Great Depression 2.0, those people didn’t recognize it when they saw it either.

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