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CBO report traces deficit back to 2001

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- Tax cuts, wars, recessions and spending are the primary culprits in the current U.S. budget deficit mess, analyses of Congressional Budget Office data show.

The Washington Post reported Sunday the United States went from projected annual surpluses in January 2001 that the CBO said would have wiped out the nation's debt within several years to owing more than $14 trillion with trillions more on the horizon because of choices made by both Republican and Democratic political leaders.

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The Post said while polls show most Americans blame wasteful federal programs for the red ink, routine bumps in defense and domestic spending account for only about 15 percent of the problem.

Two recessions torpedoed the stream of income tax revenues that had the government on solid footing. The combination of tax cuts under President George W. Bush and President Obama and recessionary losses totaled about $6.3 trillion in revenues that never appeared, the review of CBO data shows.

Bush administration spending decisions added 12 percent and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan piled on $1.3 trillion, the Post said.

The addition of a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients under Bush added another $272 billion while Obama's economic stimulus contributed $719 billion, or 6 percent of the total shift, the analysis of CBO data by the non-profit Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative found.

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A separate Washington Post analysis of CBO information found the Obama administration policies added a total of $1.7 trillion. Bush-era policies account for more than $7 trillion, the Post review found.

President Bill Clinton's treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, told the Post the best idea for the surplus would have been a reinforcement of Social Security, but the idea of reducing taxes was very appealing.

"The problem was a whole other part of the political spectrum wanted to use the surplus for tax cuts," Rubin said. "They said they wanted to give the people back their money. Of course, it was also the people's debt."

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