Smoke and Mirrors
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.
....“The president prefers to tell the truth,” said [Peter R. Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget], “rather than make the numbers look better by pretending.”
This is good. Seriously. It really is. The cynical among us, however, might note that highballing the current deficit also makes it a lot easier to show progress in reducing it in the future. Not that that ever occurred to them, I'm sure.