WASHINGTON (AP) -- The projected budget surpluses just keep growing and growing. President Clinton on Thursday estimated a $1.9 trillion bounty over the next decade -- a figure that he said could eliminate the publicly held federal debt by 2010 if there are only moderate tax cuts and modest increases in spending.
President-elect Bush has said he still wants to use $1.3 trillion of any surpluses over the next 10 years for tax cuts that would stimulate a slowing economy.
Clinton declined to pass judgment on Bush's proposals, but said there are "huge economic benefits" of following "a long-term responsible budget policy."
The $1.9 trillion surplus estimate for fiscal years 2002 through 2011 contrasts with a $1.5 trillion predicted surplus last summer when the White House budget office last released its 10-year projections -- but the figure then was for an earlier period, 2001-2010.
Both figures don't include the big surpluses building in both Social Security and Medicare accounts that will be needed as a population bubble of post-World War II baby boomers ages and retires. Clinton and Bush have said the surpluses there should not tapped to cover any tax cuts or spending increases.
The figures also are based on an assumption that there will be no spending increases or tax cuts -- an unreal supposition in view of how Congress and the White House have reacted to the surpluses of the past three years.
Some economists also believe that even without those assumptions, the White House projections are overly optimistic, especially if the economy seriously weakens.
"I think there's no chance we're going to see all of the surpluses," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Economy.com, a consulting firm.
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