Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

So how much debt has President Bush run up on his watch?

This page on the Bureau of Public Debt website gives some month by month and year by year benchmarks.

If I'm reading the data right (and math isn't my forte, so don't assume that's a throwaway line), at the end of September 2001, the total debt of the United States government stood at just over $5.8 trillion dollars.

At the end of last month it stood at just under $7.8 trillion.

($7,776,939,047,670, to be precise.)

So, a bit less than $2 trillion of debt piled up on President Bush's watch.

(Note: these numbers do also include interest on previous debt. But for the purposes of this discussion, I'll set that aside.)

Needless to say, that is much more than the entire Social Security Trust Fund, which President Bush says there is no way to make good on.

(According to the recently released Trustees' report, the Trust Fund currently has just under $1.7 trillion in it.)

Now, federal debt is divided into "public debt" and "intragovernmental holdings", which means debt held in various government Trust Funds. Social Security and Medicare are the big trust funds. But there are several smaller ones too.

Over that same period I mentioned above, the total of these 'Intragovernmental Holdings' went from just under $2.5 trillion to just over $3.2 trillion. Now, remember, that's not all the Social Security Trust Fund. It's all the trust funds combined. But if the Social Security Trust Fund is worthless then the other trust funds must be worthless too.

So that means that President Bush (his administration) has borrowed some $700 billion of your payroll taxes that he now says will never be paid back. In fact, just last year (2004), on the president's watch, $156 billion (and change) of your Social Security payroll tax dollars went for what he calls worthless pieces of paper.

Now, one more batch of numbers. As you remember, the federal debt is divided into public debt and trust fund debt. Or, to put it into the president's terms, debt that actually gets paid back and suckers' debt that just amounts to worthless paper.

So now let's look at the public debt, the stuff even President Bush admits will be paid back. Over the same time period noted above (September 2001 to last month), public debt went from about $3.3 trillion to just under $4.6 trillion (the exact numbers are $3,339,310,176,094 and $4,572,715,640,119.) So let's call that around $1.2 trillion.

I know I'm tossing around a lot of numbers here. But just bear with me. We're almost to the end.

The Social Security Trust Fund is now at about $1.7 trillion. And President Bush says there's no way that can or will be paid back. But just in his first term he's racked up about two-thirds that much money in new debt. And he'll easily exceed that number in his second term. And that'll amount to maybe a couple trillion dollars that even President Bush concedes will be paid back to all those bond purchasors here and abroad.

If we hadn't gone on President Bush's red ink binge, that would be more than enough cash to pay back all the money owed to the Social Security Administration.

Do you understand what Al Gore was talking about now with the 'lockbox'?

Yeah, exactly.

Instead we got President Bush who's run up a ton of debt that he just wants to walk away from. And he keeps borrowing more and more every day.

Isn't the bankruptcy bill supposed to deal with folks like him?

Somebody's talking.

From the Post ...

A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.

DeLay reported that the trip was sponsored by a Washington-based nonprofit organization. But interviews with those involved in planning DeLay's trip say the expenses were covered by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas that also paid for an intensive $440,000 lobbying campaign.

Reminds me of the days I used to spend making photocopies at the FARA office in downtown DC.

Nice work if you can get <$NoAd$> it.

From the NYT ...

The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state, Texas.

Most of the payments to his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his only child, Dani DeLay Ferro, were described in the disclosure forms as "fund-raising fees," "campaign management" or "payroll," with no additional details about how they earned the money. The payments appear to reflect what Mr. DeLay's aides say is the central role played by the majority leader's wife and daughter in his political career.

Drip, drip?

I think we're past that.

The American Constitution Society is the progressive counterpart to the conservative Federalist Society, a group which, whatever you think about its effect on America, has been extremely effective in seeding the courts and the legal academy with committed Movement conservatives who've worked for years to shape American law and government.

This weekend, the Yale Law School chapter of the ACS, the national ACS, the Open Society Institute and the Center for American Progress are putting on a conference at Yale Law School that will discuss and plan how to build a movement within the legal community that will do the same for progressives -- law shaped to serve the many, rather than the few and the powerful. The conference is titled The Constitution in 2020. And National ACS is launching a new Constitution in the 21st Century project to continue the discussion that will begin this weekend.

Like all the best stuff being done on the center-left right now. This isn't about 2006 or 2008 or figuring how all the cards might fall right in this or that cycle. It's about creating the building blocks of progressive reform, one step at a time, one lawyer at a time, one new idea at a time, building networks of like-minded individuals who create enduring change. That's stuff that doesn't show results in a week or a month; but it endures. And if done wisely, it's something progressives need a lot more of.

In any case, the conference goes from Friday the 8th through Sunday the 10th. Some of the noteworthy participants include Judge Guido Calabresi and former Judge Patricia Wald, former Solicitors General Drew Days and Seth Waxman, former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, former Dean of Stanford Law School Kathleen Sullivan, ACS Executive Director Lisa Brown, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress John Podesta, Cory Booker, and constitutional scholars and big-think big-wigs Bruce Ackerman and Cass Sunstein.

Pre-registration is required; but the conference is open to the public with a nominal fee (15 bucks) for attendence. You can see the full schedule here. And they're even chattering about it already on a new conference blog.

It's open to the press too. So if you're within a reasonable distance of New Haven and you care about these issues, you might want to stop by.

Good news from Iraq from the AP ...

Lawmakers put the finishing touches Tuesday on an agreement making Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani president and Shiite Adel Abdul-Mahdi and interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, his two vice presidents.

On Thursday, the 275 lawmakers elected Jan. 30 likely will name Shiite leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari prime minister, clearing the way for lawmakers to begin focusing their attention on writing a permanent constitution by their Aug. 15 deadline.

Every step is a small one. But these are all in right direction.

Don't go! Don't go!

With news now breaking that Rep. Tom DeLay had a 1997 trip to Russia paid for by lobbyists who were, in some fashion or another, working on behalf of the Russian government, there must be a few Democrats out there who worry that he might actually be taken out by these burgeoning scandals. After all, he's great for the Dems. Heck, we're even planning on having a section of the new site we're launching devoted to tracking the DeLay/Abramaff scandal. So it might even require some site redesign on our end.

But, really, I wouldn't worry.

Even if the White House tries to get rid of DeLay (which would not surprise me) I doubt he'll go that easily. And even if he goes, actually make that when he goes, the truth is (and anybody who covers the Hill knows this) that his corruption has seeped all through the House GOP caucus.

There's a reason they call it the DeLay machine. It's not just DeLay. It's a system of organized corruption that many, many Republican members of the House have benefited from. Not all corruption is illegal or even against congressional ethics rules, mind you. But enough of it is, as we're now seeing with DeLay. And he's splashed his mud all over the House.

Late Update: Two other points about DeLay, or rather one question with possibly two answers. Who's turning on the bug man? Call me cynical: but Drudge is playing this story awfully prominently. That makes me wonder whether a thumb at the White House that used to be turned up just turned down. More concretely, a lot of DeLay's lieutenants are now under indictment or on their way there. Eventually, you've got to figure one of them starts to squeal. You've seen Deliverance, right?

So let's see where we are.

The president went to Parkersburg today and said, didn't hint, but said that the Social Security Trust Fund doesn't exist. In other words, he said that the Treasury notes that make up the Trust Fund won't be paid back. And that means that he intends for the government to default on that portion of the national debt.

I know he didn't unpack it that way. But that very much is what it means

Let's break it down to essentials and explain what we're talking about.

For two decades your Social Security payroll taxes have been used to offset the cost of upper-income tax cuts. If I'm not mistaken that money has been used at the highest rate (i.e., in absolute dollars terms per year) under this President Bush. The money is supposed to be paid back, with interest.

That's the deal. That's what bonds are.

But now the president stands there holding on to one of these notes and jokes that they're not worth anything.

Foreigners hold quite a bit of US debt. What are theirs worth? Are they going to get their money paid back?

Wealthy Americans do too. In fact, most of President Bush's personal wealth is in the form of US government debt. Is he going to get his money paid back?

He wants to borrow $5 trillion more. Are those folks going to get paid back?

That's what this is all about. Defaulting on that portion of the federal debt. Those folks will all get their money back. But the president figures you can be stiffed.

If you pay most of your taxes in payroll taxes (like the overwhelming majority of Americans) he's trying to play you for a fool.

Simple as that.

Late Update: Here's a number someone should run. President Bush has been president for four years. He's run very big deficits and during that same period, if I'm not mistaken, Social Security has been running very big surpluses. So his government has been sticking the Social Security administration with Treasury notes that he says and believes are worthless. Obviously the debt obligations of the United States government don't begin and end with each new presidency. That would what, at least until recently, differentiated us from the banana republics of the world. But if he really believes these obligations will never be paid back, why did he use that money -- what must amount to hundreds of billions of dollars -- to subsidize his tax cuts?