The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

It’s a ‘Framework,’ Not a ‘Plan’

Posted on | April 14, 2011 | 7 Comments

Last night I glanced at the White House talking-points outline of Obama’s Big Important Speech and had to smile at the effrontery of this part:

$4 Trillion in Deficit Reduction: The President is setting a goal of reducing our deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years or less. This deficit reduction would be phased in over time to protect and strengthen our economic recovery and the recovering labor market.

A very old Beltway trick: First, project the budget waaaayyy out in the future, where hypothetical rates of economic growth are always robust, revenue gains are inevitably encouraging and political opposition magically vanishes.

Next, propose reductions in spending that only get semi-drastic in the far-off-in-the-future years of such a forecast.

Voila! You’ve “reduced the deficit” by an Impressively Large Number!

Except, of course, that you haven’t done any such thing. Because (a) the anticipated economic growth never matches the hypothetical forecast, (b) the cuts in spending you “projected” to make six, eight, 10 years in the future don’t actually happen, and instead (c) spending continues to grow due to what’s known as “baseline budgeting.”

So it’s easy as pie to do what Team Obama has done here: Propose $4 trillion in deficit-reduction over 12 years, which when you do the math only amounts to $333 billion a year in spending “cuts” (or tax increases), except that trying to apply math to this “framework” is hopeless, because we’ve got no freaking clue what the economy is going to be doing in 2022 — by which time, of course, Obama will have long since become a very wealthy ex-president who can play golf even more than he does now.

Speaking of the Impressively Large Number trick, here’s another timeless variation: Just make up some numbers.

Call it $38 billion and if it’s actually only $334 million — hey, the president already called it “historic,” so who’s going to notice the discrepancy?

UPDATEWilliam Teach at Pirate’s Cove calls attention to the fact that Dan Balz of the Washington Post recognized The Big Speech as mere campaign politics.


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