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Obama’s budget ax: Why the neediest people should be the most afraid

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 2/15/2011, 8 a.m.

This doomsday scenario is part political hyperbole, part financial panic. The projected deficit is about 10 percent of gross domestic product. That’s big enough, theoretically, to threaten economic growth if it were sustained for decades — but proportionally far smaller than the deficits that the U.S. ran during and immediately after World War II. The dooms-dayers also fail to acknowledge why and how the deficit ballooned to current levels.

It was unchecked defense spending and reckless tax cuts by GOP Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush that first swelled the deficit to post-World War II records. Then George W. Bush and Congress piled on more debt with the $1 trillion (and probably much bigger) bailout to Wall Street houses and banks in 2008.

The GOP boxed in Obama and forced him to extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. This, along with Congress’ refusal to make more than cosmetic trims to the bloated military budget, continues the decades-long (and largely Republican) pattern of piling debt on more debt. The GOP recalcitrance virtually ensures that the deficit “crisis” will continue to be a political attack issue and that programs to boost education, health and jobs will continue to be the prime target of budget cuts this year and for years to come. The needy have good cause for concern.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.