In a town where bipartisan budget chicanery has been raised to an art form, President Obama's latest budget proposal should be hailed as the da Vinci of fiscal obfuscation.
The president claims that his budget proposal reduces debt by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, combining $2.4 trillion in spending cuts with $1.6 trillion in tax hikes. Almost none of that is true.
Let's start with the idea that the president's budget would reduce the debt. That is true only using Washington math, under which a smaller increase is actually a decrease. In reality, the president's budget adds $6.7 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, bringing it to nearly $25.5 trillion by 2022. That would be more than 100 percent of our GDP.
The president's budget is dishonest and irresponsible.
And those spending cuts? The president actually counts $681 billion in cuts that were agreed to last year as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling. Shouldn't there be some sort of statute of limitations for how long you can claim credit for cuts that you have already made? And it should probably be shorter for cuts that you fought against every step of the way. The president also counts as a cut the $741 billion we will save from not occupying Iraq over the next 10 years, and from not being in Afghanistan a decade from now. Considering that we were never going to spend that money in the first place, that seems like slightly dishonest accounting. After all, think of all the savings we can claim by not invading Syria. And, finally, $595 billion of the claimed budget cuts is actually interest savings resulting from not having to borrow for the other phony cuts.
On the other hand, the president's budget does include plenty of new spending. For example, there is $476 billion in new spending over 10 years for transportation projects, including the president's favorite boondoggle, "high-speed rail." There are also the usual bailouts for profligate state governments and teachers' unions, including $30 billion to build more schools and $30 billion to hire teachers. Another stimulus anyone?
Overall, the president would increase federal spending from $3.8 trillion in 2013 to $5.82 trillion in 2022. That might not be as big an increase there might otherwise be, but in no way can it be called a cut.
Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, heading research into a variety of domestic policies with particular emphasis on health care reform, welfare policy, and Social Security. His most recent white paper, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," provides a detailed examination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what it means to taxpayers, workers, physicians, and patients.
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