Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 7, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

COOKING THE BOOKS....The Bush budget is so bad that I literally haven't had the heart to dig into it and blog about it. It's just a nightmare, and one that's difficult to explain even with the most cynical possible view of both human nature and the Bush administration in general.

The worst part of the budget, of course, is the enormous long-term deficits that it envisions. But the most cynical part of the budget is this:

The president's new savings tax breaks would actually make money for Washington during the next five years, as Americans agree to pay more taxes up front to get bigger breaks later on. Of course, once taxpayers start to take full advantage of the breaks, the government would begin losing money -- fistfuls of it, according to some analysts. But those losses would show up only a decade or more from now, out of the budget window.

Read that paragraph closely: Bush's $670 billion tax-cut plan was announced with great fanfare, but it makes near-term deficits look awfully bad. So in order to make them look less frightening the savings plan surreptitiously increases taxes over the next few years, at the cost of creating huge tax windfalls in the out years, beyond the five-year window of the budget projection.

Since I've already used the word "cynical" twice in this post, I'm casting around for another word to adequately describe what they're up to, but I'm having trouble. I guess "contemptuous" is the best I can come up with. The administration is simply hellbent on making the short term look rosy plenty of tax breaks, plenty of spending, but a deficit that's not too big while showing utter disdain for what happens after that. November 2004 is the only date they care about.

I have a feeling this might be the reason that O'Neill and Lindsey were fired last year. Karl Rove demanded a deeply gimmicky but ultimately destructive budget for 2004 and both men balked at the lengths he wanted to go to. But we probably won't know until it's too late.

Kevin Drum 11:11 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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