President Bush, who entered the White House to budget surpluses, will bequeath the largest-ever budget deficit to his successor, and the men vying for that honor struggled Monday to explain how they will dig out from the inherited red ink.
After three successive drops, the deficit is now projected to top $389 billion for fiscal 2008, which ends Sept. 30, and grow to $482 billion in 2009, the White House announced Monday - $69 billion higher than the record high set in 2004. The president's economic advisers blamed a slow economy and the $150 billion tax-rebates bill that Congress and the president approved earlier this year.
"We are not happy about the deficit," said White House budget director Jim Nussle. "It is slightly higher than the average of the last 40 years. We have a plan to address that deficit and bring it down, which I think is a responsible one."