The Power of Sixty

Lots of people have been surprised to find out in recent days that Sen. Elect Scott Brown (R-MA) is still just the Senator-Elect, and not yet a voting member of the U.S. Senate.  That delay was a good thing for Democrats this week.

With Brown saying he does not expect to be sworn in until February 11 – almost two and a half weeks after his stunning victory in Massachusetts – Democrats have a little breathing room until then.

They needed it in recent days on a measure designed to expand the government’s borrowing authority – what’s known as the debt limit – by $1.9 trillion, raising it to $14.3 trillion.

The plan squeaked through the Senate by getting 60 votes to avoid any GOP filibuster, as all Democrats voted for the bill, and all Republicans opposed it.

Republicans like Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) denounced it as a “borrowing binge” that didn’t square with the call for fiscal discipline made the night before by President Obama in his State of the Union Address.

“This is the largest increase of the deficit in our nation’s history,” said Isakson.

As part of the debt limit measure, the Senate also approved – on another 60-40 party line vote – what is known in Congressional shorthand as “Statutory PAYGO.”

PAYGO is short for “pay-as-you-go”, which requires any tax cut or spending increases to be paid for by offsetting budget cuts.

Congress installed PAYGO rules back during the Clinton years, when the Republicans took over after the elections of 1994.  Those rules, plus spending caps on the budget, helped produce a perfect storm that produced four years of budget surpluses.

The PAYGO rules were tossed out by Republicans a few years later during the Bush Administration, because the restrictions would have limited the first round of the Bush tax cuts.

Without the PAYGO restrictions and the budget caps in place, spending went up in the George W. Bush years, as the federal debt went up a good deal during his eight years in office.

Mr. Obama now is obviously on a pace to completely shatter all of those Clinton and Bush numbers.

This combination debt limit-PAYGO bill will be voted on next week in the House.

Here is a good rundown from the Cato Institute on spending by a number of recent Presidents – .

Finally, here is a table from the Office of Management and Budget that lays out the amount of federal debt at the end of each year since the end of the first Bush Administration.

1992 – 4,001,787 – Clinton starts early ’93
1993 – 4,351,044
1994 – 4,643,307
1995 – 4,920,586 – GOP now runs Congress
1996 – 5,181,465
1997 – 5,369,206
1998 – 5,478,189
1999 – 5,605,523
2000 – 5,628,700 – Bush takes over Jan ’01
2001 – 5,769,881
2002 – 6,198,401
2003 – 6,760,014
2004 – 7,354,657
2005 – 7,905,300
2006 – 8,451,350
2007 – 8,950,744 – Dems control Congress
2008 – 9,985,757 – Obama takes over Jan ’09
2009 – 12,867,455

There were four years of budget surpluses (different than the federal debt numbers) in the Clinton administration, in Fiscal Years 1998, 1998, 2000 and 2001.  2001 was shared by both Clinton and George W. Bush, just like the year we just went through in 2009 was “shared” by Bush and Obama.

The federal debt was at $4 trillion when Clinton arrived, and $5.6 trillion at the end of his term.

Bush went from $5.6 trillion at the start to $9.9 trillion at the end of his eight years.

And who knows how high the total debt may be with the current Administration.  The estimate for this year’s deficit is pegged at $1.35 trillion.

We will get a lot more numbers on Monday when the new Obama budget is released.


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