Monday, November 10, 2008

If I were Obama, part 2: the Bush bill

It seems to me that there is way too much attention focused on the details of President-elect Barack Obama's transition planning. If I were Obama, I would develop some cover stories, put those out for attention and discussion, and let the transition happen more subtly. One narrative could well be: how much has it cost you, the average American taxpayer, to have George W. Bush in office for the past eight years.

Let's start with the obvious one: the $700 billion bailout. What is $700 billion, anyway? It's far too large a number to really mean anything to me. So let's dig in, shall we?

In 2007, there were approximately 138 million taxpayers in the United States. So $1 billion is about $7 for every US taxpayer. Some pay more, some less -- there are probably 138 million individual situations -- but it's a place to start. So the cost of the bailout is 700 times $7 per taxpayer: $4900.

Wow. So, almost $5 thousand per taxpayer. That's a lot of money to get Wall Streeters back on an even keel.

The other obvious biggie is Iraq. No one really knows how much the Iraq war will cost; current estimates are $600 billion spent so far and final costs between $1 and $2 trillion. Some estimate the cost as high as $4 billion. Well, let's say $1.5 trillion; divided again by our 138 million taxpayers -- careful of all those zeros -- is around $10,800.

That's around $16,000 per taxpayer for Baghdad and Wall Street. For reference, Joe the Plumber made $35,000 to $46,000 in 2007 if he was working full-time. Perhaps Fox News could have him on to get his thoughts, since I imagine he's got plenty of time.

The way debt works, including our national debt, is like putting $16,000 on your credit card. If you don't pay off the principle -- or worse, make no payment at all -- the debt just gets bigger.

So if I were Obama (or perhaps Obama's PR machine), I would ask the following question:

When President Clinton left office almost eight years ago, he left a surplus budget. President Bush has incurred approximately $16,000 in debt which he has not figured out how to repay. What are your thoughts on how best to address this problem?

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