Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alarm Bells on the Obama Budget

The Wall Street Journal has a pithy op-ed about the magnitude of Obama's budget, and what is in store for the future:
These columns focus on spending, rather than deficits, because Milton Friedman taught us that spending represents the real future burden on taxpayers. nonetheless, the 2009 budget deficit is estimated to be an eye-popping 12.7% of GDP, which once again dwarfs anything we've seen in the postwar era. The White
House blueprint predicts that this will fall back down to 3.5% as soon as 2012, but this is based on assumptions about Washington that aren't going to happen.

For example, Mr. Obama's budget assumes that nearly all of the new stimulus spending will be temporary -- a fantasy. He also proposes to eliminate farm subsidies for those with annual sales of more than $500,000. This is a great idea, and long overdue. But has the President checked with Senators Kent Conrad North Dakota) or Chuck Grassley (Iowa)? We hope we're wrong, but a White House that showed no interest in restraining Congress during the recent stimulus bacchanal isn't likely to stand athwart history to stop the agribusiness lobby.

The falling deficit also assumes the largest tax increase in U.S. history, starting in 2011 with the repeal of the Bush tax rates on incomes higher than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. The White House says this will yield upwards of $1 trillion, if you choose to believe that tax rates don't affect taxpayer behavior.


The biggest illusion in this budget may be its optimistic economic forecast. The White House assumes that the economy will decline by only 1.2% this year, before growing by 3.2% next year. This assumes the recovery will begin later this year and gather steam quickly to return to normal levels of growth. By 2010 to 2013, the budget adds, the economy will be cooking by an average of 4% a year -- which is also how it conjures up magical deficit reduction.

This growth is a lovely thought, but how? The only impetus for growth in this budget comes from the government spending more money that it is taking out of the job-producing private economy. With $1 trillion of new entitlements, $1.4 trillion in new taxes, and $5 trillion in new debt, America's entrepreneurs aren't getting any help soon from Washington.

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