Since 2001, lawmakers time and again have cut taxes or increased spending without finding ways to pay for their decisions. Both parties share the blame.
After a brief few years of budget surpluses at the end of the Clinton administration, lawmakers opened the new century by blowing a hole in the budget with major tax cuts.
The Bush tax cuts carried an initial 10-year cost estimate of $1.35 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They were reauthorized and expanded in 2003, and then again in 2006. In 2010, President Obama signed another extension.
The cost of the latest two-year extension? $544.3 billion.
Proponents argued that the tax cuts would spur economic growth. But Democrat Tom Daschle, then the Senate majority leader, warned in 2001 that the cuts were too large and too expensive.
"I just know that at some point that reality is going to come crashing down on all of us and we're going to have to deal with it," Daschle said.
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