As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Honest Barack

No President wants to fix the mistakes of the past in such a way that reflects on the present. I think it's honorable for President Obama to make this decision with respect to the federal budget, and with the right framing, he can get a win out of it.

For his first annual budget next week, President Obama has banned four accounting gimmicks that President George W. Bush used to make deficit projections look smaller. The price of more honest bookkeeping: A budget that is $2.7 trillion deeper in the red over the next decade than it would otherwise appear, according to administration officials.

The new accounting involves spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and the cost of disaster responses.

But the biggest adjustment will deal with revenues from the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to prevent the wealthy from using tax shelters to avoid paying any income tax [...]

Fiscal sleight of hand has long been a staple of federal budgets, giving rise to phrases like “rosy scenario” and “magic asterisks.”

The $2.7 trillion in additional deficit spending, Mr. Orszag said, is “a huge amount of money that would just be kind of a magic asterisk in previous budgets.”

“The president prefers to tell the truth,” he said, “rather than make the numbers look better by pretending.”

The predictable spin by the right on this is going to be that Barack Obama ballooned the federal deficit with runaway spending. What he did was set a precedent to put a stop to deliberate lying. And it's the only way to realistically deal with our problems so that we don't opt for partial measures that only appear to close the gap. If this paves the way for a more progressive tax code and a real reckoning of the real costs of war and corporate giveaways, I'm all for it.

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