I originally intended to post this as a reply to someone who disputed the claims of the MoveOn ad-- specifically, the $1 trillion deficit number. I think this is an important enough issue that it should be discussed in the main thread.
So far from the sources I've found, Bush has racked up somewhere between $530 and $615 bn in actual debt (2002/2003), and should add an estimated $475-$500 bn to this total by the end of fiscal year 2004. (The sources of these numbers include the White House and remarks made by Treasury Secretary John Snow). I think it's safe to trust the White House and say that we will be somewhere near $1 trillion in the hole by the end of FY 2004; even a massive economic turnaround would still leave us well above $800 bn. And we're a couple months into the year already, remember-- FY2004 began in October 2003.
But let's not stop there. In addition to the reported deficits, Bush has "borrowed" approximately $320 billion in excess Social Security funds since he got into office (FY2002/2003). Which means that our "real" gov't deficit as of the end of FY2003-- meaning all moneys borrowed that will have to be paid back-- runs above $800 bn. And we're on track to spend an additional $160 bn in excess SS funds again this year.
Of course, that's only using budgets that have already been submitted. If we look into the future, it gets worse. By 2008, according to its current figures from the White House, the Administration plans to borrow another $980 bn in official deficit, and nearly an additional $1 trillion from Social Security.
The worst part about "borrowing" money from the SSTF is that some people are actually convinced that the money is somehow "free", and we're not actually borrowing when we use it. What really happens when we raid the surplus is that we write ourselves a promise to pay ourselves back someday when we need it. Of course, who pays back these IOUs? Why, the taxpayer, of course. So the government is essentially overtaxing most middle and working class people by about 15% (7.5% employee/7.5% employer), and using that money to fund general operations. If we wish to retire someday, we will have to pay for whatever gets borrowed today, which means we essentially pay for our retirement again.
This technique didn't begin with Bush. What's changed, however, is that we're no longer using SSTF funds to retire debt-- something that ultimately would have put us in a better financial situation than we would otherwise be. Instead, we're using the money to fund all sorts of pork and overseas spending. What makes it such a particular problem today is that this borrowing is hiding the true magnitude of the deficit from us so the administration can continue the policy. In fact, with the SS borrowing, the FY2004 estimated deficit comes out to about $640 bn, or a whopping 6% of GDP, which is about as bad as it's been in most of our lifetimes.
So that's that. Dispute my numbers. It's late and I've probably made a few mistakes. But the financial outlook is not good, and people need to stop covering it up and look at it for what it is. The ad with those kids should strike a chord with anyone who cares about the future of this country, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. (Many points borrowed from this excellent piece in Slate.)