$6.2 trillion: A decade of deficits

@CNNMoney May 12, 2011: 4:51 PM ET

Congress at work: Policies put in place over the past decade resulted in a $8.5 trillion debt swing.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- We're swimming in debt, but it wasn't always like this.

In 2001, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would run a surplus of $5.6 trillion over the ensuing decade.

That didn't happen. Instead, we racked up deficits of $6.2 trillion, a swing of $11.8 trillion, according to a new analysis from the CBO released Thursday.

Congress and the recession share the blame. But mostly lawmakers.

CBO estimates that lawmakers put policies in place that resulted in $8.5 trillion of the swing. The recession and other economic changes account for the remaining $3.3 trillion.

Lawmakers spent. Oh boy, did they spend. And never with offsetting tax increases. Both parties are guilty.

How Washington wrecked the budget

Republicans pushed through a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that cost $272 billion over the decade. President Obama just signed a tax package in 2010 that included an extension of the Bush tax cuts. That will cost $400 billion in 2011 alone.

The 2008 stimulus act, the Recovery Act, TARP and funding for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq also added to the bill.

Not only were lawmakers spending money on new programs, they also brought in less tax revenue.

The Bush tax cuts are the biggest cost on the revenue side, according to the CBO. With a total price tag of $1.6 trillion, they account for the bulk of lost revenue.

Today, the national debt stands at more than $14 trillion, and Washington is gearing up for a brawl over the debt ceiling, which will have to be raised sometime this summer. To top of page

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