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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Sham Budget

Josh Marshall marvels at newspaper coverage that recently has said that the Bush administration plans on cutting the deficit in half as well as borrowing $2 trillion for the social security, two things that seem hard to reconcile. But not for the mendacious budgeteers of the current White House! Witness this breathtaking explanation of the bogus budget math from Sunday's NYT:

To make Mr. Bush's goal easier to reach, administration officials have decided to measure their progress against a $521 billion deficit they predicted last February rather than last year's actual shortfall of $413 billion.

By starting with the outdated projection, Mr. Bush can say he has already reduced the shortfall by about $100 billion and claim victory if the deficit falls to just $260 billion.

But White House budget planners are not stopping there. Administration officials are also invoking optimistic assumptions about rising tax revenue while excluding costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as trillions of dollars in costs that lie just outside Mr. Bush's five-year budget window. ...

As in past years, the budget will exclude costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could reach $100 billion in 2005 and are likely to remain high for years to come. The budget is also expected to exclude Mr. Bush's goal to replace Social Security in part with a system of private savings accounts, even though administration officials concede that such a plan could require the government to borrow $2 trillion over the next decade or two.

Hey, why not just exclude defense spending, Medicare, and debt service payments while we're at it? Then I bet it would become very easy to reduce the "deficit" and claim victory, which is all that really matters, right?

To the Bush-favoring people who occasionally visit this page, I dare you to defend this budget policy. In fact, I would enjoy seeing you try. The only intellectually coherent argument I can fathom is the "deficits don't matter" line from Dick Cheney, which is plenty flawed but at least not entirely dishonest.