Those Wacky Liberals at The Economist (and they’re anonymous!)

On Bush’s budget: “George Bush presented Congress with a $2.4 trillion budget for the next. Think of it as a campaign brochure, complete with glossy pictures of the president bringing relief to the elderly, restoring the environment and exhorting the young.”

The Economist writers also appear more skilled at crafting sentences than their peers at the NYT (though they spell “defence” in that funny, European, way): “For the armed forces and homeland defence come big proposed increases in spending, up by 7% and 10% respectively.” (The NYT said that the homeland would be 10% more secure, rather than correctly stating that we’d be spending 10% more on homeland security.)

There’s also more substantive content in the Economist piece:

If this [cutting the deficit in half over the next five years] all looks too good to be true, it is. For once, the administration has not fiddled the books by relying on unrealistically high growth rates in the coming years; but it has relied on other fibs. For a start, the budget does not factor in the future costs of keeping soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan: even Mr Bush’s own budget director says costs could be as much as $50 billion for Iraq alone in 2005. Then the usual implausible savings are found from “waste, fraud and abuse”. Third, all the president’s cuts are to fall on the one-fifth of the total budget that counts as domestic discretionary spending—hardly likely to happen in an election year.

Mr Bush’s most culpable failing lies in his refusal to think beyond the 2009 horizon. Take, first, the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which Mr Bush wants to make permanent at a ten-year cost, when other new proposals for tax-free savings schemes are added in, of $1.25 trillion. The cuts may well have provided a welcome economic stimulus at a time when confidence was knocked by recession and terrorist attack. But after 2009, these cuts will equal three-quarters of the total deficit, even by the administration’s own numbers. [more …]

Get it? If Bush excludes war costs, and makes unrealistic assumptions, and defines the time window just right, then maybe, just maybe, the deficit will be cut in half. Of course, cutting it in half will still mean a deficit over 1/4 billion dollars, or a bit more thant 2.2% of GDP — which is about the size of Clinton’s last surplus, but of course, in the opposite direction. Under the most optimistic of scenarios, the current budget proposes to run deficits the size of Clinton’s surpluses.