Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The White House fell back on a familiar story line Tuesday when confronted about the national debt topping $19 trillion: blame it on Republican George W. Bush.

Asked about the Treasury Department’s report that the federal government has officially reached the record debt level, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama’s predecessor, Mr. Bush, enacted tax cuts that mainly benefited the wealthy and “launched a ground war in the Middle East, all without paying for it.”

Mr. Earnest also noted that Mr. Bush’s predecessor, Democrat Bill Clinton, left office in 2000 with a large surplus in the Treasury. He didn’t mention that part of the surplus was due to a massive tax increase.

The overall national debt has risen from about $10.6 trillion when Mr. Obama took office in 2009 to the current $19 trillion. Mr. Earnest said the president is “pretty proud” of reducing annual budget deficits by nearly three-fourths since they reached a high of about $1.4 trillion early in his first term, during the worst of the recession.

He said Mr. Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal 2017, to be released on Feb. 9, will “try to limit the growth of the debt as a percentage of GDP [gross domestic product].”

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