Brad DeLong on The Bush Budget Clown Show
Brad reads a report from Bloomberg and then goes shrill. First Bloomberg:
President George W. Bush sent Congress a $3.1 trillion federal budget that trims Medicare and health care programs, boosts military spending and projects the deficit this year and next will hit near-record levels.
Record deficit? Dean Baker objects:
This adjustment is also necessary in accessing the “record” $412 billion deficit in 2004. This deficit was equal to 3.6 percent of GDP. It is dwarfed by the deficit in 1983, which was equal to 6.0 percent of GDP. In fact, the deficits were larger relative to GDP in all but three years between 1982 and 1993.
But then I had to note that the General Fund deficit is much larger than the unified deficit. We see Brad making the same argument:
Their reference to “near-record levels” of the deficit doesn’t give a full and fair account of the magnitude of what can only be called a clown show. The headline deficit number ought to be $738 billion–we have a $331 billion Social Security surplus for 2009, and an honest and honorable administration would be using that surplus to pay down the government debt in order to get ready for the challenges that our aging population will pose for the federal budget over the next two generations. The headline number shouldn’t be 2.7% of GDP; it should be 4.8% of GDP. That is how far Bush fiscal policy is from what a prudent and responsible fiscal policy should be.
Now that we have an actual Bush administration proposal in print–one that Republican senator Judd Gregg doesn’t think much of–it is time for an accountability moment. The Bush administration and its flacks and flunkies have long promised that the administration was going to “cut the deficit in half” by the time in left office in fisal 2009. The press by and large reported this straight–not pointing out that the “cut in half” was from a highballed projected peak deficit number that was artificially inflated in order to set the bar artificially low, not pointing out that such a deficit still left fiscal policy far from where it ought to be, and not pointing out that the Bushies’ policies would produce such a reduction only if everything broke right and we had four uninterrupted years of macroeconomic good news.
Brad ends up praising folks like Andrew Samwick and Bruce Bartlett and closes with:
We want to run a budget that is in surplus during boom, in deficit during recession, that borrows in order to fund investments that benefit the future, and that runs surpluses and pays down debt in order to fund future expenditures that benefit today’s taxpayers. The Bushies have not done that.
And if you listen to John McCain and Mitt Romney, they have no intention to listening to Bartlett, DeLong, and Samwick either.