Bush promises that the next president will balance the budget

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The White House released its proposed FY 2009 budget this morning, complete with pledge that the budget will be back in balance by 2012. Which is, um, three years after George Bush leaves office.

In the meantime, the Office of Management and Budget is projecting that, after several years of shrinking, the deficit will grow dramatically this fiscal year, to $410 billion (or $602 billion if you leave aside the Social Security surplus). The culprit is the slowing economy, and the $150 billion (or so) stimulus package that the prez is hoping to get through Congress. The OMB says deficit will be even higher in FY 2009, then will shrink dramatically as soon as the current president heads home to Texas. Oh, and most of the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are left out.

With these projections in hand, we can now chart the fiscal performance of the past four administrations (I threw in the last couple of Carter years too just for the heck of it):

Chart by Feilding Cage/Time.com

Now I’m not any kind of fiscal absolutist. Given what’s going on in the economy, I think it’s a good thing that the deficit is going up this year. Also, the deficits of the W era haven’t been quite as big as those under his dad and Ronald Reagan, and we survived those. But it’s now pretty much certain that Bush will leave office having presided over a sharp deterioration in the nation’s finances. At least it’s nice that he’s so confident his successor will clean up after him.