But this debt crisis did not originate with George W. Bush. It can be traced back primarily to President Reagan, who arrived in the White House in 1981 with fanciful notions about restoring America’s economic vitality through massive tax cuts for the wealthy, a strategy called “supply-side” by its admirers and “trickle-down” by its critics.
Reagan’s tax cuts brought a rapid ballooning of the federal debt, which was $934 billion in January 1981 when Reagan took office. When he departed in January 1989, the debt had jumped to $2.7 trillion, a three-fold increase. And the consequences of Reagan’s reckless tax-cutting continued to build under his successor, George H.W. Bush, who left office in January 1993 with a national debt of $4.2 trillion, more than a four-fold increase since the arrival of Republican-dominated governance in 1981.