As has been widely noted, the 2009 budget deficit was the largest since World War II relative to the size of the economy. This is not surprising given that the current recession is also the worst since the Great Depression, and a large deficit is normal in this situation. But the recession is only half the story. Tax cuts, wars, and other legacies of the Bush administration contributed almost as much to the 2009 deficit, and cumulatively have had a greater effect on the debt since the federal budget went from surplus to deficit in 2002.
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See more work by Anna Turner and Monique Morrissey