Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Debunking a presidential budget myth

Everyone is focused on September right now – as well they should be – but everyone is focusing on a portion (Iraq) of the big picture.

The real fight is about the budget for FY 2008, which starts on 01 October. Let’s be kind in our assessment, and just say that the administration certainly seems to be embracing magical thinking where the nation’s checkbook is concerned. You see, if we aren’t kind, we have to say that the president is lying his ass off and pushing malicious propaganda. (The latter is likely true, but we are feeling inexplicably magnanimous tonight. If it persists, I'll get checked out.)

Last Thursday the president spoke to the American Legislative Exchange Council in Philadelphia, and his speech was so far divorced from reality that, frankly, it left me wondering what exactly was the combination of drugs he was enjoying at the time? I mean, the BS is so easily debunked that it seems like they aren't even trying any longer.

He boasted that he had overseen a budget deficit that has been declining in recent years, and that his policies would realize a surplus by FY12.

Problem is, he forgot a couple of really, really salient facts. (Or maybe they are inconvenient so he committed an intentional sin of omission?)

If he is going to take credit for reducing the deficit, he has to admit that he created it. Prior to his administration, there were four consecutive budget-surplus years, with a forecast of $5.6 trillion in continuing surpluses. This robust economic forecast was the justification for the Bush tax cuts, but even after the surpluses were revealed to be imaginary, massive, record-high deficit spending continued unabated. (Never before have we cut taxes in time of war.)

Additionally, the word “debt” never fell from his lips during the entire speech. He either doesn’t realize, or again opted to willfully omit, that while the deficit is falling, the debt is climbing. In fact, his term in office will realize a $3 trillion increase in the national debt.

But it gets better! He said we have a responsibility to fix our problems! It wouldn’t be fair to pass these problems off "to future Congresses or future generations." All the while ignoring that the interest payments on the debt will be crippling for the next three decades, thanks to that $3 trillion dollars added to the debt. Oh – I almost forgot! There is a hell of a lot of short-term borrowing that is coming due and we don’t have the cash to satisfy the debt. So we have to refinance. (We all know someone who got in trouble with a payday loan that took on a life of its own. This is like that, only on a national scale and its trillions instead of hundreds.) The ghost of the George Bush presidency is going to haunt this nation for years to come.

When he bragged that the current (FY 2007) deficit would be "lower than the national average over the last 10 years."

There is only one way to make that statement true: omit the years FY98-01 and still call it a decade. When FY98-01 are included, the average deficit drops to 0.9% of GDP, but the number that the president cited for FY08 was significantly higher, 1.5% GDP.

Translation: He wasn’t really saying this years deficit represents the lowest percentage of GDP in a decade, it will just be lower than any of the six consecutive deficits he has presided over. (Doesn’t sound quite so sexy that way, though, does it?)

He went far afield and insisted that congress should send him budget appropriations individually, not in a combined omnibus spending bill, and not in the form of continuing resolutions, but individual appropriations bills. (This has never been asked before, and is quite baffling in the petulant audacity it takes to even ask.) Not once in the past six years has the White House expressed any concern whatsoever Interesting, given that FY01, 03, 04, and 05 were all funded by omnibus spending bills, and the entire government has operated on continuing resolutions this year, FY07, because the republican rubber-stamp 109th congress failed to pass a budget.

But the coup de grace of unmitigated gall was the proclamation that the Congress was obligated to, “in a time of war” pass the Pentagon budget before the August Recess! (Isn’t there something happening in September that makes that suggestion especially off-putting?)

Out understanding is not so stunted as the president prefers to think it is, apparently. For instance, we know that the fiscal year does not start until 01 October, and that any funds appropriated for FY 2008 now would not be available for dispersal until then, no matter when the Pentagon appropriations are passed! His petulant, pandering insistence is disingenuous at best. Or maybe he just forgot…

His credibility on this issue is suspect in any case. Over the past six years, Congress has adopted the Pentagon appropriation by the start of the summer recess only once (FY05). Twice (FY04 and 07) it was enacted in the last days of September. Three times (FY02, 03 and 06) it was enacted well after the fiscal year began. At no time during this period did the White House ever call on Congress to adopt the bill beforethe August recess or criticize it for not getting the work done before the fiscal year began.

Also casting a cloud on his credibility is his complete and utter refusal to criticize the Iraqi parliament for taking an August recess. Again he strikes a disingenuous pose. That “time of war” he referenced is taking place in their country and they are off on holiday after accomplishing exactly nothing.

Now, analytical disagreements are par for the course when budget and appropriations projects are debated. But the president’s statements about the budget are so patently and obviously false that they read much more like propaganda than policy differences. The mind boggles at the audacity. It really truly boggles.

[Cross-posted from Watching Those We Chose]

No comments: