Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Projected surplus

A caller takes issue with a line in one of today's editorials.

Specifically, the caller did not like this passage:
Combine this with government spending that took Bill Clinton's $5 trillion surplus and turned it into a $10 trillion deficit and the financial and human costs of Iraq, and we can see how voters rejected Republican claims to be wise stewards over government dollars.

His claim is that the edit confused budget deficit and national debt. Not really, though we could have been more precise in labelling Clinton's surplus as merely projected. Our point was that Clinton handed George W. Bush a potential budget surplus in late 2000. President Bush's fiscal decisions -- big tax cuts, deficit spending on war and other matters -- erased said surplus. Without it, the nation was forced to borrow money it did not have, hence the deficit.

This is how the New York Times reported the story almost eight years ago:
The Clinton administration handed a parting gift to President-elect George W. Bush today, projecting that the federal budget surplus would swell substantially, to nearly $5 trillion, over the next decade.
Administration officials said they expected the surplus to total $4.996 trillion in the 10 years beginning with the start of the next fiscal year, on Oct. 1, 2001. That amounts to an increase of just over $800 billion from the administration's previous projection, of $4.193 trillion for the 10 years that started this October.