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National deficit outlook unchanged under Obama: UMD policy analysis

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - From a public policy point of view, the national debt accumulation since President Obama took office is largely a result of policies put in place prior to his inauguration, says a new analysis by University of Maryland expert Philip Joyce. He adds that Obama's policies will make little impact in the debt over the next decade.

"The best that can be said about presidential fiscal policies thus far is that they would slow the bleeding, but they neither would stop it nor would they do much to heal the patient," Joyce says.

The size of the debt has been one of the biggest issues of the presidential campaign, with Republicans arguing that the President has allowed the debt to rise out of control and Obama saying that he inherited the policies that led to an increase in debt and deficits.

Joyce's analysis his the second Election Policy Fact Check, a new series by the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. The ongoing series examines the key policy issues of the presidential campaign. Joyce, a professor of management, finance and leadership, served in the Congressional Budget Office and the Illinois Bureau of the Budget and is the author of the book, The Congressional Budget Office: Honest Numbers, Power, and Policy Making

According to Joyce's analysis:

  • It's true that deficits and debt are much higher now than they were in 2009 when Obama took office. In fact, the debt accumulated far faster than the Congressional Budget Office's initial calculations. Almost $6 trillion was added to the debt in four years - something the CBO estimated would take a decade.

  • The growth of the debt is predominantly due to the continuation of many policies that predated the administration, which were, for the most part, out of Obama's control. But Obama's policies did contribute to the deficits and debt. And, while the president did appoint a deficit commission, and this commission came up with a bold reduction plan, Obama chose not to embrace its report, even though it would have given him political cover to come up with a major debt-reduction initiative.

Joyce says the main question in the context of the presidential election is whether a second Obama term would represent more of the same, or whether we could expect a bold, long-term proposal to finally put the country on a path to a more responsible fiscal policy.

"There seem to be few clues in the campaign so far that would point us to an answer to that question," Joyce says. "The public deserves to know how both candidates' plans to deal with the short-term, and also the long-term, budgetary problems faced by the country."


Contact: Neil Tickner
University of Maryland

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