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The Bush Budget: Lies And Legerdemain

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The new Bush budget starts with a lie.

President Bush promised to cut the deficit in half during this term, so he starts his cost-cutting crusade with an inflated deficit number.

The real 2004 budget deficit was $412 billion dollars, so he adds another $109 billion to make his deficit target half of $521 billion.

It’s a lie, pure and simple, that betrays the trust of every American, whatever their political persuasion.

So where did this number come from? The White House and thin air.

And the White House has used it deceptively before.

Last year, when it became apparent that the deficit was going to be over $400 billion dollars, the White House started saying that the deficit might be as big as $521 billion. The idea was simple spin: once the real budget came in, they planned to say: "Look, we did better than expected." At the time, that number was seen for what it was – flimflam – and not taken seriously by most of the business community. [Bushies About to Spin the Deficit 07/28/04] (Story links open in new windows)

It’s just hocus-pocus this year, too.

With that for openers, Bush then goes on to shape-shift on his promise of fiscal responsibility.

Until this year, he was promising to cut the deficit in half in absolute dollars. This year, he has weaseled that into reducing the deficit as a share of the economy. With this new approach, the deficit could stay as big as it is yet still be considered "reduced" as the economy grows.

Then, to make it easier to hoodwink us into thinking he was successful, he simply omits a number of deficit-raising items.

That’s right – he simply doesn’t count very major expenditures that will be made.

The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Not counted in the budget, even though this already eliminates $80 billion in a supplemental request before Congress and will require at least another $50 -100 billion over the next year, an unknown amount for the full extent of the American occupation.

Alternative minimum tax "reform?"

Not counted, even though this would add $44 billion to the deficit in 2009.

Extending the expiring tax cuts?

Not counted, even though this will cost nearly $3 trillion over the next ten years.

Privatization of Social Security?

Not counted, even though this would cost $750 billion over the next ten years.

If you ran your budget like this, I’d be waving to you as I passed you in your new home under the over-pass.

If I were a conservative (I am, fiscally), I’d worry. Your leader’s approach to fiscal matters is irrational and potentially very destructive to the quality of life in America

At this point, I can read your mind: you’re echoing the spin that deficits don’t matter except as a percentage of GDP.

That’s wrong, too.

Even Bush’s top economic adviser, N. Gregory Mankiw, tells us that a government deficit "pulls resources away from investment in new capital and, thereby, depresses the living standards of future generations."

Serious, non-partisan economists agree:

"Two international economic watchdogs warned that President Bush’s budget plans will make the U.S. and other countries poorer in the long run.

 

"The International Monetary Fund (IMF) … estimates that even if the budget deficit is cut in half from $521 billion [they got caught in the spin, too] by 2009, as the Bush Administration projects, U.S. gross domestic product would be 1.4% lower by 2020… For the world, GDP will ultimately be 2.6% lower by 2050.

"Yesterday’s report was the latest in a drumbeat of warnings from the IMF in recent years about the deteriorating U.S. budget picture. Like the others, it is likely to fall on deaf ears." [IMF, OECD See Economic Risks In Bush’s Budget Wall Street Journal subscription]

It’s not just a matter of duplicity, although I certainly expected better from a born-again Christian – Bush’s mishandling of the budget will hurt this country and the world forever.

Write your Senators and House Representative.

They need reminding that Diogenes wouldn’t have given Bush a second glance.

 

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About Hal

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Yr first & last bits translizzled (Link – MarkS, you’ve started a trend here)

    Tha new bizzush budget starts witta lie.

    president bizzush promised ta cut tha deficit in half dippin’ this T-to-tha-izzerm, so he starts his cost-cutt’n crusade wittan inflated deficit gangsta wit da big Bo$$ Dogg.

    the real 2004 budget deficit was $412 billion dollars, so he adds anotha $109 billion ta makes his deficit target hizzy of $521 billion.

    its a lie, pure n simple, thizzat betrays tha trizzust of every american, whateva they politizzles persuasion.

    so where did this numba come fizzy? tha white hizouse n tizzy air.

    and tha white hizouse has used it deceptively before.
    ………….
    ts not jizzy a matta of duplicizzles although I certainly expected betta friznom a born-again Christian – Bushs mishandl’n of tha budget wizzy hizzurt this country n tha world brotha.

    Write yo Senators n Hizouse Representative.

    They need remind’n thiznat Diogenes wouldnt have given Bush a second glance so show some love niggaz.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    dang, this is just too funny.

    sorry, i just couldn’t help myself.

    p. winn needs to start on a “Translizzle Blogcritics” feature.

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Just goes to show that bc is not biased – the first two ‘victims’ were a right- and a left-leaning blogcritic.

    Sorry, Hal – you bring up important points. The use of maths and stats to subvert meaning and public policy is a common occurence – always to the benefit of the party in power. Nothing new under the sun.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Yep. Bush, the so-called ‘MBA President’ leaves much to be desired. His choice of Mankiw, one of the more liberal academic economists available, has been quite lamentable.

    Ah, well, fiscal conservatives are increasingly beginning to see that their wishes won’t be met by politicians from either major party.

    The tiniest silver lining to this black cloud is that Bush put many programs on the table for cutting or elimination. That’s a welcome upside.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    No apologies needed for humor (unless it’s a fart joke :-)

    But you’re wrong – this time it is new.

    Never before has it been so consistently and caculatingly applied.

    What we see today is the result of at least 20 years worth of efforts (if you start counting from Newt’s Conservative Opportunity Society in the early 80s) and hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars spent on think tanks (Heritage Foundation),communications channels (News Corp) and the language itself (Frank Luntz).

    That’s why many voters still believe, for instance, that Saddam was involved in 9/11.

    A mere citizen doesn’t stand a chance of making a rational voting decision without making a significant effort. Which most don’t.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Count on ox-farmers to be outraged, Mike. (Whose ox is gored?)

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    You got that right, Dr. Pat. That’s why, as Will Rogers put it best, there’s no thing quite so permanent as a temporary government program.

    Once instituted, the benefactors of any program have a great deal of incentive to fight for its survival, while many citizens may not even know the program or department exists.

    I find that if the Chief Executive is series about cutting the budget, it is easier to survive by proposing across-the-board cuts on a small percentage basis (like 2 or 3%) so that all programs and departments are treated equally, making it harder for opposition to point fingers at favored others who are spared the ax.

  • http://www.myspace.com/welcometobrookhollow Scott

    Yeah, Bush is trippin’. He wants to cut the deficit in half, pay down the debt and make the tax cuts permanent? Give me a break…

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I do find it intensely amusing that when Bush was estimating a deficit around $415 billion the Democrats were shouting that it was going to be at least $100 billion higher than that, and now that he’s saying it is indeed $100 billion higher, they’re crying that he’s inflating the figure. You can’t have it both ways.

    Dave

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    You can, Dave, if (as Hal P has pointed out in an earlier post) you word it just right. As always, it’s not about the truth, it’s about what plays in Peoria…

    If you’re interested in truth, though, you know the truth of budgeting is that (unless you’re a burglar with access to some really deep pockets), if you overspend one month, you have to cut spending the next, or you’ll eventually go bankrupt.

    The current debate in Congress about SS reform strikes me too much as a crowd of burglars complaining that their victims have decided to put in an alarm system and buy some police dogs…

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    If only we had the power of an alarm system and dogs to deter these burglars, but sadly we have nothing that potent.

    Dave

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Dave: “when Bush was estimating a deficit around $415 billion the Democrats were shouting that it was going to be at least $100 billion higher than that”

    Can you tell me when that happened? With links, because you pull claims out of thin air and have no credibility whatsoever?

    It was the White House that came up with the “over $500 billion” budget number, as explained earlier.

    The “$400 billion” number I remember Bush using was his lie about the Medicare Bill costs.

    Remember, when an actuary was told he would be fired if he revealed the real projected cost of $540 billion?

    The key thing to remember is:

    It’s not a lie just because Bush says it, but you’ll win almost all of your bets if you play that line.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com/ andy marsh

    why should anyone else have to supply links, you don’t!

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Sorry, Andy – I hadn’t realized that you don’t understand what a link is.

    See, when the words are in blue and there’s an underline, that’s probably a link. It can also be other colors, but generally it’s blue. Now move your cursor onto that area (use your mouse).

    See the cursor change? The color of the words will probably change, too. That means you’re over a link. Now click (you know, push the left mouse button).

    Et voila – you are magically transported to the source material.

    To see it work in my postings on Bush’s all-too transparent scheme against Social Security and other social progams, visit The “Ownership” Scam on my site. The list on the left consists of links to various posts.

    I’ve made the listed items dark green, I hope that’s not too confusing. Now move your cursor over one of the listed items. When the words turn red, click your left mouse button.

    That will open a page on that topic over in the area on the right.

    If you read that material, you’ll find I always substantiate my material, unlike you and Dave.

    So stop the lying.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Oh, now I understand. If I write a vicious little article full of lies and put it on my website and supply a link to it, then I’m providing substantiation to my comments here? Cool.

    And here I thought that my use of actual documentation from primary research and official sources was the way to do that. If I’d known that all I have to do is reference myself like Hal does, then this all would have been so much easier.

    By the way Hal, do you actually know the correct definition of the word ‘lie’?

    Dave

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    You can find a lie in the comments above, Dave. For instance, this is what the Trust Fund Report says:

    “The balance of the combined trust funds peaks at $2.3 trillion in 2017 (in present value) and then turns downward. This cumulative amount continues to be positive, indicating trust fund assets, or reserves, through 2041. However, after 2041 this cumulative amount becomes negative, indicating a net unfunded obligation. Through the end of 2078, the combined funds have a present-value unfunded obligation of $3.7 trillion.”

    Claiming that they say something different is a lie.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    That part of the Trustees’ report is here.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Well Hal, the report IS 225 pages long I guess I can excuse you not reading past the introduction.

    The report does say what you quote, but what you quote is by no means the entire report or all that it says and I think that you may not actually understand what that $3.7 trillion represents.

    $3.7 trillion is the present-value unfunded obligation. It is the amount which the system is owed right now by the federal government and which if paid back would restore the trust fund. It is only the correct figure if it were to be paid NOW, in cash with no further delay. In other words a full immediate bailout of the system’s past indebtedness.

    But what that really means is that $3.7 trillion is the absolute minimum that will have to be paid to the system to fulfill present obligations if it were shut down right now or replaced with something else. It’s not the most we have to pay, it’s the absolute least we could get away with if we just junked social security alltogether, including paying no further benefits to anyone.

    If you refer to page 191 and 192 of the report you will see a complete listing of what will happen as the system goes increasingly into the red over time. It’s broken down into low, high and intermediate cost scenarios. Taking the numbers from the most optimistic ‘low cost’ model you will see that with each year the amount paid out increases as the amount taken in decreases. The table only gives per year figures for the imbalance, but the total indebtedness of the system if not reformed would be the total of those imbalances from each of the years added together. They don’t provide the final total for you, but I went ahead and did an Excel spreadsheet to total it up. Based on that conservative ‘low cost’ table the total shortfall of the system by 2080 would be $79 trillion dollars. Of course if you did the same with the ‘high cost’ figures the outcome would be a staggering $957 trillion.

    So Hal, not only are your democrat leaders lying to you when they tell you there’s not a crisis, but in fact George Bush is softpedaling the crisis as well. His quotes of a few trillion to make a transition to a hybrid system are optimistic and based on the assumption that we act immediately and don’t pay off the system’s existing debts. With every bit of delay the system is accelerating towards insolvency and mounting debt which will be impossible to manage. The longer we delay the more drastic whatever changes we make will have to be, so if you like the idea of Social Security you had best come on board with Bush’s plan or find an effective alternative before it’s too late.

    Dave

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    You just don’t get it, do you, Dave?

    Any actuary will tell you that the infinite projections are worse than meaningless and are misleading.

    It is highly like that this is deliberate, as they are so useless that they were never included in Trustees’ reports until Bush appointed 4 of the trustees. With that, infinity was added last year and included again this year.

    Check the Web and see what non-partisan actuaries are saying in the business press. Even the 75-year projections are guesswork that would change in a big with, say, a minor tweak in the productivity or GDP growth assumptions, but the infinite projections are useful only with the naïve and gullible.

    Running your spreadsheets on these is a fool’s errand, like running new venture spreadsheets.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Fine Hal. The facts don’t agree with what you want to hear, so they are bad facts.

    Answer me these questions then.

    1. Will the trust fund be paying out more money than it is taking in at some point in the next 20 years?

    2. Is it reasonable to assume that human lifespans will continue to lengthen?

    3. Is it likely that birth rates in the US will either stay stable or decline?

    If your answer to all three of these is “yes” then we have a crisis regardless of the numbers you choose to use.

    So long as we have a stable or declining population paying into the system and a growing population taking money out of the system the system is going to go broke.

    That’s not rocket science.

    Dave

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    They’re just numbers, Dave, not facts.

    They might be okay for H. G Wells on his time machine and drugs, but they have no connection to reality.

    But enjoy.