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I'm thinking of a number between one and a gazillion... I'll give you three guesses

It's more budget follies at the New York Times -- this one care of the editorial board, rather than Paul Krugman. (Count your blessings: at least this way we're spared talk of the mythical "lockbox.")

President Bush has been asserting lately that the budget is so tight there is barely enough money to pay for anything new besides the war on terrorism. He has begun issuing veto threats if Congress tries to defy his spending priorities. How bizarre it is, then, for him to contend at the same time that the nation needs another tax cut. Last week, the House went along, making permanent the ill-advised 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax reduction enacted last year. The Bush proposal would drain nearly $400 billion more over the next 10 years and cost at least $4 trillion in the decade after that. A more irresponsible position would be hard to imagine.
I can imagine one: pretending that there's any such thing as a 10-year budget projection. Politicians do the same thing -- but nobody expects them to tell the truth. We expect -- in the sense of "want," not in the sense of "think it will happen" -- that newspapers will avoid making things up. And yet, that's what they're doing. (Actually, this piece is unclear, but it appears to me that they're projecting twenty years into the future to come up with that $4 trillion number. It's hard to say, since there's no real basis for any of these numbers anyway.)

When they're discussing the "cost" of tax cuts, the problem is compounded. First, they have to guess how much money would be raised in the next decade under the old tax code. Then, they have to guess about the effects of a tax cut on the economy -- or, in Timesworld, simply pretend that there won't be any. Then they subtract fictional number B from fictional number A, and declare that the difference of two guesses is a real number.

The sad truth about budget politics this year is that Congress and the Bush administration have gotten themselves into such a box that irresponsible posturing becomes the easiest recourse. The tax cut of last year, along with the recent mild economic downturn, vaporized the revenues needed to deal with anything outside military and homeland defenses.
Vaporized? Only in a world where taxes create money. Tax cuts don't "vaporize" money; they simply leave money in the hands of the people who earned it in the first place. By the way, the 2003 budget will be about $2 trillion. Military and homeland spending amount to about $400 billion. Apparently, to the Times, the $1.6 trillion difference doesn't even count as "anything outside military and homeland defenses."

Oh, the rest of the editorial? I'll save you the trouble of going to the link: Republicans evil. Give money to rich people. Should take it away. Spend it on bureaucrats. Help poor.


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