Back in March of this year, when both the White House and the CBO put out their budget deficit numbers, we were told that the CBO simply had it wrong and were much too pessimistic about the 10 year budget that the Obama administration was touting.
The head of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, had this to say at the time:
White House budget chief Peter Orszag said that CBO’s long-range economic projections are more pessimistic than those of the White House, private economists and the Federal Reserve and that he remained confident that Obama’s budget, if enacted, would produce smaller deficits.
Even so, Orszag acknowledged that if the CBO projections prove accurate, Obama’s budget would produce deficits that could not be sustained.
“Deficits in the, let’s say, 5 percent of GDP range would lead to rising debt-to-GDP ratios that would ultimately not be sustainable,” Orszag told reporters.
Deficits so big put upward pressure on interest rates as the government offers more attractive interest rates to attract borrowers.
“I think deficits of 5 percent (of GDP) are unsupportable,” said economist Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “It will lead to higher interest rates to the point where it will force policymakers to make changes.”
Of course, today the White House’s OMB acknowledged that, in fact, the CBO’s estimates in March were indeed correct. OMB has adjusted its deficit estimate up 2 trillion dollars to over 9 trillion. That means that in 2019, the deficit will be 6% of GDP – or to quote Peter Orszag, “unsustainable“.
What does “unsustainable” mean to you, and how does one address such a problem?
Well, it certainly isn’t addressed with increased spending, new entitlements and more debt, is it?
Is there any wonder a sizable majority thinks the country is still on the wrong track despite a change of administrations?
In case the politicians still don’t get it (and after this morning’s awesomely dumb move by Republicans, they need to be reminded as well) — It’s the spending, stupid!
Right about what? Well, in this case, the 10 year budget estimate. Remember this chart first seen in March?
This was the difference between the Obama administration and the CBO estimate based on the Obama administration’s 10 year budget. At the time the CBO said that the budget estimate would raise the debt by 9.1 trillion dollars. The Obama administration said, at the time, that the CBO was wrong.
Quietly, at 7pm this last Friday night, the Obama administration raised its estimate of what their budget would add to the debt by the 2 trillion the CBO had said was always there. What that means for the chart is you can ignore the pastel red bars – the Obama estimate – in favor of the dark red bars.
The administration claims that its change in the estimate is due to things which have apparently changed since March, but of which they were just unaware might happen:
Obama administration officials have concluded the economy was much worse last year — and tax revenues much lower — than they had initially assumed, which means that the estimated budget deficit will increase from $7 trillion to about $9 trillion over the coming decade.
This has to give you all sorts of confidence in other White House cost estimates not to mention their denials of the CBO’s accuracy on things like cap-and-trade and health care in favor of their own.
They didn’t know enough to make an accurate estimate. But the CBO did.
So when the administration says that health care reform will save money and the CBO says it will “bend the cost curve upward”, what should this example lead us to believe?
The cost curve is going to bend upward.
UPDATE: James Pethokoukis thinks this is a prelude to CBO kicking their estimate up a notch:
Expect the CBO to also crank up its forecast, which will be higher than the administration’s. Also, this is further evidence that the common wisdom that people don’t care about budget deficits (no matter what the polls say) is wrong. C’mon, leaking such news on a late Friday afternoon?
When we were still talking about “health care reform”, before it was renamed “health insurance reform”, one of the big selling points was government was going to change the way we did business. I.e. it was going to stress “preventive care” which, so the Dems claimed, would be less costly in the long-run.
The CBO, however, has said, “not so fast”. In a letter to Henry Waxman, among others, Dr. Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office writes:
“Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall,” Elmendorf wrote. “That result may seem counterintuitive.
“For example, many observers point to cases in which a simple medical test, if given early enough, can reveal a condition that is treatable at a fraction of the cost of treating that same illness after it has progressed. In such cases, an ounce of prevention improves health and reduces spending — for that individual,” Elmendorf wrote. “But when analyzing the effects of preventive care on total spending for health care, it is important to recognize that doctors do not know beforehand which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case of acute illness, it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway. … Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness.”
This is another in a long line of “facts” the Democrats have attempted to use to sell their “more coverage, better care, less cost” health
care insurance reform. And it is another “fact” that has been found to be false.
Going through Elmendorf’s reasoning provides a very good explanation of why it is false. But I’ll bet that none of that reasoning or information will find its way into Democratic talking points about the goals of this legislation. Instead the false “fact” about preventive care lowering overall costs will stubbornly remain.
If so, my suggestion is you send it in as a “fishy” statement to be refuted by the White House crew that deals with these sorts of fishy facts.
Oh wait, nevermind. Apparently the White House has already dealt with the fishy CBO’s report- well sort of:
Responding to the CBO letter, Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, said that, “to work, prevention has to be targeted. Proven services need to be directed to populations that need it, as the CBO letter suggests. We will continue to work with Congress on ensuring that dollars are spent on prevention that gets the biggest bang for the buck.”
Douglass argued, however, that there would be long-term financial savings, saying “we can’t forget that many of the benefits of prevention will accrue to the Federal government in thel long term as opposed to the near term. Prevention results in longer, healthier, more productive lives — yielding savings that don’t typically show up on a score sheet. We have to return to common sense: keeping people out of a doctor’s office or hospitals saves money. Seventy-five per cent of our health care spending goes to treat chronic diseases, many of which could be prevented from developing in the first place . Proven preventive services are worth it.”
Notice that the CBO says the problem is that preventive care can’t be targeted because doctors have no idea who would benefit until they run batteries of tests on everyone. And that is what the CBO highlights as running the costs up.
Additionally, no one is claiming “proven preventive services” don’t work or aren’t “worth it”. What CBO is claiming is they’re not “less costly”, something Douglass avoids addressing. All in all a most unsatisfactory and fishy response to the CBO argument.
There are a number of things going on in the health care reform debate that are the reason Democrats are at odds with each other. One, obviously is cost. What should be apparent, even to rocket scientists like Nancy Pelosi, is that the American people are not buying into the premise that “government can expand coverage, improve care and do it for less”. It’s not happening.
And, of course, those on the blue side that are leading the “no way, no how” charge are the so called Blue Dogs. Bolstering the Blue Dog position is the CBO, or Congressional Budget Office – a non-partisan organization which “scores” proposed bills for cost and savings. In the last few weeks it has consistently found Democratic Congressional legislative proposals wanting – pointing out none delivered the promised savings over the long haul.
Predictably, the CBO has come under fire from the left, and yesterday the White House joined the fray. Peter Orszag, the White House budget director, Peter Orszag said – carefully – that the CBO’s recent analysis might be feeding a perception that its tendency is toward “exaggerating costs and underestimating savings.”
Given how the costs of most government programs skyrocket after implementation, I’m having difficulty buying into this supposed perception. And it may say more about Orszag, former CBO director, than it does about the CBO now.
However, what Orszag is talking about specifically is a proposal that is another part of the infighting going on among Democrats.
“The point of the proposal … was never to generate savings over the next decade,” Orszag said in a letter posted on Saturday.
“Instead the goal is to provide a mechanism for improving quality of care for beneficiaries and reducing costs over the long term.”
In fact, the proposal is about shifting power from Congress to the Executive Branch:
The new council, if approved, would replace the current Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which is made up of doctors and health care experts. Once a year, it gives recommendations about coverage and reimbursement rates for Medicare but has no authority to enforce its ideas. Its report in March recommended that payments for primary care physicians be increased and home health services rates be decreased.
The proposed council would be comprised of doctors and health care experts making their recommendations based on extensive data and analysis of best health care practices, according to administration officials.
It would be an independent executive branch agency — which would give its recommendations more weight. The president would have to approve or disapprove the its recommendations as a package. If it is approved, the package would be enacted if Congress did not vote against it within 30 days.
This isn’t necessarily about “best health care practices” – this is about centralizing the decision making and making it harder and harder for Congress as a whole and individual Congressmen specifically, from excepting their district or certain constituent health care providers from some of the provisions. The White House wants to take that little perk away from them. And that’s another one of many stuggles going on within this fight to pass something.
A Democratic president trying to take power away from a Democratic congress is probably not the best way to try to pass something that the President can call “health care reform”. That’s not to say I support this council in either form – its more to point out how clumsily this administration is proceeding in all of this. If you want legislation passed so your signature issue doesn’t fail, it may be best not to try to take power away from a friendly Congress and take it yourself. Executive power grabs don’t just happen in the national security area as the Democrats constantly criticized Bush for attempting. They can occur in many other areas. We’ll see if the Dems will be as critical of this power grab as they were of the ones alleged of the previous administration.
I‘m not sure how often everyone has to be told, but here’s the warning again, just as Democrats attempt to pile another trillion plus dollars in federal health care spending (and debt). From the CBO Director’s blog:
Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path, because federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run. Although great uncertainty surrounds long-term fiscal projections, rising costs for health care and the aging of the population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly under any plausible scenario for current law. Unless revenues increase just as rapidly, the rise in spending will produce growing budget deficits. Large budget deficits would reduce national saving, leading to more borrowing from abroad and less domestic investment, which in turn would depress economic growth in the United States. Over time, accumulating debt would cause substantial harm to the economy.
I’m not sure how it can be said any more clearly and more succinctly.
The choices, as laid out in the paragraph above are fairly simple – cut federal spending dramatically or raise taxes (revenues) dramatically to meet the spending or your going to do “substantial harm to the economy”. Of course we also know that raising taxes dramatically would have the same effect. That leaves one option and, as is clear with the health care reform proposals, that’s nowhere near the table, is it?
Yet that’s the formula:
Keeping deficits and debt from reaching these levels would require increasing revenues significantly as a share of GDP, decreasing projected spending sharply, or some combination of the two.
CBO offers the following graph to illustrate the point of letting the status quo remain in place. Note that the second line coming off the actual/projected line – that’s the “extended baseline scenario” where absolutely nothing is changed and the budget, as projected, is executed. Disregard the first line for the moment.
What is important is to understand this:
The current recession and policy responses have little effect on long-term projections of noninterest spending and revenues. But CBO estimates that in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the federal government will record its largest budget deficits as a share of GDP since shortly after World War II. As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public will soar from 41 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2008 to 60 percent at the end of fiscal year 2010. This higher debt results in permanently higher spending to pay interest on that debt. Federal interest payments already amount to more than 1 percent of GDP; unless current law changes, that share would rise to 2.5 percent by 2020.
Now you’ve heard that, in various forms for years. But what does that mean to you personally – how does one put that in terms that mean anything to a taxpayer?
Well Jim Glass at scrivner.net has done that for us:
The national debt incurs interest that is paid with taxes. The interest rate on US debt is projected be about 6% annually in the long run, according to the Social Security Administration’s actuaries and other such governmental budget projectors. Six percent of one trillion dollars is $60 billion.
There are 80 million payers of income tax in the US. (If that seems low for a population of 300 million remember that 47% of all “tax units”, 70 million potential taxpayers, pay no income tax or receive refundable tax credits from the government.)
Now $60 billion divided by 80 million taxpayers equals $750 per taxpayer — so each trillion dollars of the national debt costs the average taxpayer $750 per year, every year that the debt is carried, forever.
So for every trillion in debt the federal government puts us, we owe $750 per tax payer in interest alone.
Jim extends his example to what the chart above depicts:
As of the end of last year the government’s outstanding explicit and implicit debt was $64 trillion. Add another year’s interest on that, plus this year’s $1.8 trillion deficit, and we will be well over $66 trillion at the end of this year. Which creates an explicit and implict annual interest liability to just carry the debt of more than $49,000 per taxpayer.
Yet we have Joe Biden claiming we have to spend money to avoid bankruptcy – and there are people out there who believe him. As Jim points out:
As of today most of that is implicit (for unfunded Medicare liabilities, etc.) but every year from now on (as more seniors retire and start collecting Medicare, etc) more of the debt will shift from being implicit to explicit, requiring cash tax collections to pay for it.
And the same entity which has put the country in this shape running a health care system, now wants the rest of it with the stated goal of cutting costs.
If you’re gullible enough, given the facts above, to fall for that, I have to question your critical thinking abilities. In fact, you might want to consider the chart above again and pay attention to the top line coming off the actual/projected line – that’s likely what our debt will look like if you hand over health care to the federal government.
It is very close to fish or cut bait time for the people of the US – we have got to realize, very quickly, that in fact, we are on the verge of bankruptcy and what that buffoon Biden says is just abject, unthinking nonsense.
Either cut government spending – drastically – or go under. Those are your choices.
Does anyone know who Dr. Doug Elmendorf is? He’s the director of the Congressional Budget Office. And today, in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee he answered a few questions from Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) about the supposed great savings the country would reap under the planned Democrat “health care reform” bills under consideration by Congress.
Here it is uncut, unfiltered and unedited [emphasis mine]:
Conrad: Dr. Elmendorf, I am going to really put you on the spot because we are in the middle of this health care debate, but it is critically important that we get this right. Everyone has said, virtually everyone, that bending the cost curve over time is critically important and one of the key goals of this entire effort. From what you have seen from the products of the committees that have reported, do you see a successful effort being mounted to bend the long-term cost curve?
Elmendorf: No, Mr. Chairman. In the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.
Conrad: So the cost curve in your judgement is being bent, but it is being bent the wrong way. Is that correct?
Elmendorf: The way I would put it is that the curve is being raised, so there is a justifiable focus on growth rates because of course it is the compounding of growth rates faster than the economy that leads to these unsustainable paths. But it is very hard to look out over a very long term and say very accurate things about growth rates. So most health experts that we talk with focus particularly on what is happening over the next 10 or 20 years, still a pretty long time period for projections, but focus on the next 10 or 20 years and look at whether efforts are being made that are bringing costs down or pushing costs up over that period.
As we wrote in our letter to you and Senator Gregg, the creation of a new subsidy for health insurance, which is a critical part of expanding health insurance coverage in our judgement, would by itself increase the federal responsibility for health care that raises federal spending on health care. It raises the amount of activity that is growing at this unsustainable rate and to offset that there has to be very substantial reductions in other parts of the federal commitment to health care, either on the tax revenue side through changes in the tax exclusion or on the spending side through reforms in Medicare and Medicaid. Certainly reforms of that sort are included in some of the packages, and we are still analyzing the reforms in the House package. Legislation was only released as you know two days ago. But changes we have looked at so far do not represent the fundamental change on the order of magnitude that would be necessary to offset the direct increase in federal health costs from the insurance coverage proposals.
Conrad: And what about the Finance Committee package, as it stands?
Elmendorf: I can’t speak to that Mr. Chairman. We have been working with the Finance Committee and the staff for a number of months on proposals that they have been addressing. But our consultations with them have been confidential because they have not yet released the legislation, and I don’t want to speak publicly about that.
Conrad: All right. In terms of those things that are public from other plans, what are the things that are missing that in your judgement prevent a bending of the cost curve in the right way?
Elmendorf: Bending the cost curve is difficult. As we said in our letter to you, there is a widespread consensus, and you quoted some of this, that a significant share of health spending is not contributing to health. But rooting out that spending without taking away spending that is beneficial to health is not straightforward.
Again, the way I think experts would put it – the money is out there, but it is not going to walk in the government’s door by itself. And devising the legislative strategies and the regulatory changes that would generate these changes is not straight forward. But the directions that have widespread support among health analysts include changing the preferential tax treatment of health insurance. We have a subsidy for larger health insurance policies in our tax code, and that like other subsidies encourages more of that activity. Reducing that subsidy would reduce that. And on the other side, changing the way that Medicare pays providers in an effort to encourage a focus on cost effectiveness in health care and not encourage, as a fee for service system tends to, for the delivery of additional services because bills for that will be paid.
So here is the opinion of the director of the organization that both sides like to quote and use as a definitive source saying that what has been legislatively put on the table will not – not – bend the “cost curve” down, but, will instead bend it upward. It does not – not – in fact accomplish the goal of “cost savings” in terms of health care spending. Anyone with the brain of a glow worm who had taken a look at the proposals and the promises knew it was a large load of pony pellets. Those on the side of “belief and faith” (and hopeychangitude) chose to believe in the politician’s promises and have faith in their truth.
Unfortunately for them, Dr. Elmendorf apparently deals in facts and figures.
The last part of the questioning is equally important. Elmendorf discusses the funding mechanism (along with the eternal promise of corralling “waste, fraud and abuse”). Some savings will come from eliminating waste, fraud and abuse (all of which are rampant in both Medicare and Medicaid and politicians have vowed to end for decades), but not enough to fund the rest.
So they’re left with few options besides a general tax increase. Those options, per Elmendorf include taxing health care benefits and reducing the cost of Medicare by changing how providers are paid (i.e. cutting payments and prohibiting procedures Medicare doesn’t feel are necessary to treatment – the very accusation the government health care proponents constantly level at private insurance). The first isn’t very palatable politically (and they’d have to exempt unions which would be very unpopular politically) and the second would most likely find a back lash among seniors. So the fall back position is “tax the rich” – an unstable revenue stream (once the rich figure out how to dodge it).
Anyway, the Democrat’s “cost savings” narrative is again busted. Not only will the proposed legislation not save money, it will cost us a bundle. As I said yesterday, I believe, when I posted the chart with the curve of proposed health care spending under the Democrat bills, the curve isn’t going to go down.
Today the CBO validated that point.
One more time into the breach. The CBO has issued a warning to Congress about entitlement spending. Again. Here’s a key paragraph:
Almost all of the projected growth in federal spending other than interest payments on the debt comes from growth in spending on the three largest entitlement programs–Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Most of you know that Medicare and Medicaid have an unfunded future liability of 36 trillion dollars. That’s about 3 times the annual total GDP of the US economy. And they are the very same type of “public option” program – i.e. government insurance – that the left says is so very necessary and crucial to real “health care reform”.
In other words, the left’s argument is that adding at least 47 million (presently uninsured), plus the possibility of adding 119 million who are shifted to the public option from private insurance (private insurance, btw, doesn’t have any effect on the deficit whatsoever since we, the private sector, are paying for it) will somehow make the deficit picture better?
I’m obviously missing something here.
With the public option, we’re adding a new entitlement (47 million who presently supposedly can’t afford insurance, meaning taxpayers will subsidize theirs). Assuming it is set up originally to be paid for by premiums, at some point, like Medicare and Medicaid, and every other government entitlement program I can think of, it will pay out more than it takes in. How can it not? It is a stated “non-profit” program and it will include subsidies. At some point, another revenue stream is going to be necessary as it burns through the premiums with its payouts.
Well, say the proponents of government involvement in your health care, we’re going to save money by doing preventive health care. Yes, preventive care is the key to lower costs because a healthier population is one which visits the doctor less. While that may seem to be at least partially true (you’d think a healthier population would, logically, visit the doctor less) the part that is apparently missed when touting this popular panacea is the cost of making the population healthier (and the fact that the assumption of less visits isn’t necessarily true) doesn’t cost less – it costs more:
If health care providers can prevent or delay conditions like heart disease and diabetes, the logic goes, the nation won’t have to pay for so many expensive hospital procedures.
The problem, as lawmakers are discovering to their frustration, is that the logic is wrong. Preventive care — at least the sort delivered by doctors — doesn’t save money, experts say. It costs money.
That’s old news to the analysts at the Congressional Budget Office, who have told senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that it cannot score most preventive-care proposals as saving money.
So with that myth blown to hell, we’re now looking at a government plan which will add cost to the deficit by subsidizing the insurance of 47 million and (most likely) many more, plus a plan to use a more costly form of medicine as its primary means of giving care.
But, back to the entitlement report – or warning. The CBO says that unless entitlements are drastically reformed (that means Medicare, Medicaid and to a lesser extent, Social Security) we’re in deep deficit doodoo:
The most frightening findings in this report are the deficit and debt projections. In this year and next year, the yearly budget shortfall, or deficit, will be the largest post-war deficits on record–exceeding 11 percent of the economy or gross domestic product (GDP)–and by 2080 it will reach 17.8 percent of GDP.
The national debt, which is the sum of all past deficits, will escalate even faster. Since 1962, debt has averaged 36 percent of GDP, but it will reach 60 percent, nearly double the average, by next year and will exceed 100 percent of the economy by 2042. Put another way, in about 30 years, for every $1 each American citizen and business earns or produces, the government will be an equivalent $1 in debt. By 2083, debt figures will surpass an astounding 306 percent of GDP.
The report also finds high overall growth in the government as a share of the economy and of taxpayers’ wallets that provides an additional area of concern. While total government spending has hovered around 20 percent of the economy since the 1960s, it has jumped by a quarter to 25 percent in 2009 alone and will exceed 32 percent by 2083. Taxes, which have averaged at 18.3 percent of GDP, will reach unprecedented levels of 26 percent by 2083. Never in American history have spending and tax levels been that high.
Here’s the important point to be made – these projections do not include cap-and-trade or health care reform.
Got that? We’re looking at the “highest spending and tax levels” in our history without either of those huge tax and spend programs now being considered included in the numbers above. Total government spending, as a percent of GDP is now at an unprecedented 25%. And they’re trying to add more while this president, who is right in the middle of it, tells us we can’t keep this deficit spending up forever.
Believe it or not, it was AP which undertook this job. And although superficial, it was interesting to see the agency actually attempt some objectivity. That said, the one that really stands out as almost laugh outloud funny was where Obama did a little chiding of the Republicans:
First of all, I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory, because, as I recall, I’m inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, from them.
Well, first of all, only Congress can appropriate money and for the last two years, when that 1.3 trillion was pile up, it was appropriated by a Democratic Congress.
Yes, Paulson rolled them and they ran around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off – and that includes Republicans – but trying to lay this deficit solely at the feet of the Republicans is simply laughable.
Laughable point two came when Obama claimed “In this budget, we have made the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term even under the most pessimistic estimates.”
Well, that’s just not true. The “most pessimistic estimates” (in this case the CBO) essentially disagree with his point.
The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that Obama’s spending plan would leave a deficit of $672 billion by the end of 2013. Explaining the differences between his projections and CBO’s, Obama said his administration projects a higher growth rate.
It is also important to understand that “cutting the deficit in half” is a mask for the fact that it means he’ll still be running up a record deficit of over 600 billion a year. That is not progress in deficit reduction or “fiscally responsible” government. But it sounds good when thrown out there in a sound bite. Here, maybe this will help make the point:
As you can see, both the most “pessimistic” and his own projections see huge deficits projected well into the future – and, as many economists have said, unsustainable deficits.
So let’s get a few facts straight concerning spending and deficits then and now:
-President Bush expanded the federal budget by a historic $700 billion through 2008. President Obama would add another $1 trillion.
-President Bush began a string of expensive financial bailouts. President Obama is accelerating that course.
-President Bush created a Medicare drug entitlement that will cost an estimated $800 billion in its first decade. President Obama has proposed a $634 billion down payment on a new govern ment health care fund.
-President Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation. President Obama would double it.
-President Bush became the first President to spend 3 percent of GDP on federal antipoverty programs. President Obama has already in creased this spending by 20 percent.
-President Bush tilted the income tax burden more toward upper-income taxpayers. President Obama would continue that trend.
-President Bush presided over a $2.5 trillion increase in the public debt through 2008. Setting aside 2009 (for which Presidents Bush and Obama share responsibility for an additional $2.6 trillion in public debt), President Obama’s budget would add $4.9 trillion in public debt from the beginning of 2010 through 2016.
Yes, Bush did contribute to an expanded deficit. But Obama’s plans expand it beyond anything Bush did and it continues the spending well into the future. Obama’s budget is the blueprint for a huge and unsustainable expansion of government over the next decade. What you see going on now is all Obama.
And don’t let him get away with pretending otherwise.
This parallel world that exists only within the DC beltway and where the laws of economics don’t apply has got to be merged again with the real world we all live in as soon as possible:
Despite new estimates that say President Barack Obama’s budget would generate unsustainable large deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year, the White House insisted Friday that the flood of red ink won’t swamp its costly agenda.
The Congressional Budget Office figures released Friday predict Obama’s budget will produce $9.3 trillion worth of red ink over 2010-2019. That’s $2.3 trillion worse than the administration predicted in its budget just last month.
Worst of all, CBO says the deficit under Obama’s policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy, figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product, a dangerously high level.
Just feast your eyes on those statements. First – 10 years of trillion dollar deficits “won’t swamp” the “costly agenda” of the Obama administration? Really? Or is it just that the administration refuses to acknowledge the reality of the coming deficits and intends to imperil the economy to push its social agenda forward? Which is more likely true?
And how does the administration address the CBO projections?
White House budget chief Peter Orszag said that CBO’s economic projections are more pessimistic than those of the White House, private economists and the Federal Reserve and that he remained confident that Obama’s budget, if enacted, would produce smaller deficits.
Orszag, the former director of the CBO, now finds the CBO just isn’t an entity in which we should put much stock when it comes to budget analysis – especially when it finds such budget numbers “unsustainable”. Nope. Instead we should heed the Fed – which has proven to be such an economic font of solutions in this current crisis – and unnamed “private economists” whose only claim to fame is they agree with the administration’s projections. The organization Orszag previously led suddenly has a credibility problem.
However Orszag did have to admit that if the CBO is right, well, that’s a horse of a different color:
Even so, Orszag acknowledged that if the CBO projections prove accurate, Obama’s budget would produce deficits that could not be sustained. “Deficits in the, let’s say, 5 percent of GDP range would lead to rising debt-to-GDP ratios that would ultimately not be sustainable,” Orszag told reporters.
Of course there have been many economic analysts prior to the CBO projections who have found the administration’s projections to be very optimistic in outlying years, in fact the term “rose colored glasses” seems most apropos.
So which makes more sense to you in this particular time of financial crisis- listen to those who say your projections are too rosy and trim them back (and the deficits they produce) to ensure that should it happen as the more pessimistic projections hold, you don’t chance pushing the nation into a period of unsustainable debt, or waive them off and take the chance that you’re right and they’re not?
“Caution” seems like a very important watch-word at this point, or it should be.
Instead we’re seeing a “damn the icebergs, full speed ahead” attitude from the crew of the economic Titanic.
My favorite line from the other night’s Obama presser:
Now, just in terms of the historic record here, the Republicans were brought in early and were consulted. And you’ll remember that when we initially introduced our framework, they were pleasantly surprised and complimentary about the tax cuts that were presented in that framework. Those tax cuts are still in there. I mean, I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some, and then let them take credit for all of them. And maybe that’s the lesson I learned.
Maybe that is a lesson he’s learned. Always nice to see your chief executive engaged in on-the-job training, no?
But more importantly, I enjoyed the spin. “Republicans were brought in early and were consulted”. That’s a bit of a stretch. In actuality the Republicans and Democrats were in agreement that government had to do something. And they were further in agreement with the broad outline of a stimulus package that would include a large percentage of tax cuts.
Now whether or not you agree that a stimulus package is needed or not, the point to be made here is a bunch of politicians from different sides agreeing that something must be done and one of them being pleased that the other side is considering tax cuts as a major part of that “something” does not equal being “brought in early” or being “consulted”.
That happens when the bill is written and put into final form, and as everyone know, Republicans weren’t brought in at all on that process, much less consulted. So when that final bill was trotted out and placed before the full House, with no debate, Republican voted 177-0 against it. They did so for a number of reasons, but primary among them was they had had no part in writing the bill. But of equal importance, the tax cuts that they were promised would be in the bill and comprise approximately 40% of it total, just weren’t there.
Oh the Democrats had used language to attempt to convince the Republicans and the press they were in there, but the CBO pretty well killed that meme. Look on the huge graphic which lays out the spending proposed by the House and check out the upper right hand corner where the CBO discusses the tax cuts. Its analysis reduces the Democratic claim that the bill contains 26% tax cuts down to 22%. The primary reason the CBO denies what Democrats call tax cuts is because in reality they’re tranfer payments. Approximately 100 billion dollars will go to people who don’t pay taxes in the first place. Other than among Democrats, no other rational person would call giving money to people who don’t pay taxes a “tax cut”.
So when you hear President Obama say that the framework he outlined (which supposedly contained 40% tax cuts) was met with Republican approval, he’s probably right. But when he then says, referring to those tax cuts, “they’re still in there”, he’s wrong and my guess is he knows that. But as was obvious in the press conference, he was interested in characterizing the Republcians in a negative light, again mocking them and denigrating them, while at the same time speaking out of the other side of his mouth with faint praise to escape criticism for doing so.
That is not how I define “acting presidential”.
The fact remains the level of the promised tax cuts are not in the House version of the bill. And while it is somewhat closer in the Senate bill, the reconciliation process may lower that as well. Without the level of promised tax cuts in the bill which passes out of the reconciliation process, Republicans cannot be faulted for voting against its passage. Again, that’s not to say I support a single bit of this – but I cannot fault the Republicans for not voting for it if what they were promised initially isn’t in the final bill.