Economy on mend; public debt still high

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2003

The public debt topped $930 billion at the end of 1980, shortly before Republican Ronald Reagan succeeded Democrat Jimmy Carter in the White House.

Today, almost 23 years later, the accumulated public debt is almost $6.8 trillion. More than $1.1 trillion of that staggering total has been accumulated in a little less than three years since the 2000 election, and it is likely to climb higher before the 2004 election.

President Bush is well on track to finish his four-year term with an increase in the debt matching or surpassing the approximately $1.2 trillion increase during former President Clinton's first four-year term, if not the roughly $1.4 trillion increase during his father's single presidential term. ...

Obvious factors in the debt increase during the first three years of the second President Bush's term are a recession, a series of tax cuts pushed by the president, the impact of the terrorist attacks in the fall of 2001 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In April, Congress approved $79 billion in funding for the war in Iraq. ... On Sept. 7, the president announced he would request another $87 billion for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... Seven days later, Vice President Cheney was paving the way for the obvious possibility if not the probability of a further funding request in 2004. ...

The administration has been slow to prepare the public for what clearly is coming. ... Although the economy appears to be mending, the country is likely to face further increases in the public debt.

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

Sept. 22

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