clap clap blog: we have moved

Thursday, May 29, 2003
Check the rhetoric here in this story about a budget memo.

Here's the story: a memo is written pointing out that under the current plan the U.S. will eventually accrue $44trillion in debt. An article is then written in the Boston Globe ("An Economic Menu of Pain", 5/19/03) charging that this memo had been intentionally omitted from the budget report. (It also came up in Thomas Frank's cover story in Harper's this month.) And it seems to me that this was mostly legitimate--it wasn't an internal document, but was "commissioned by ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and written by Jagadeesh Gokhale, a senior economic advisor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Kent Smetters, a former Treasury deputy assistant secretary for policy coordination." Two ex'es plus one current adviser with a fed branch does not official make; I'm sure any economist will attest that being an adviser for the Federal Reserve in Cleveland (I know one or two) does not constitute being a part of the treasury department and definitely doesn't constitute being part of the White House's budget office. So it probably should have been more widely circulated, but its omission from the budget seems the least of that report's problems, judging by Frank's rundown.

What is damning, though, is the way the denial was made:

The White House on Thursday denied suppressing a report that projects the U.S. government faces a long-term budget deficit of more than $44 trillion.

White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels said the allegation was ``probably the most absurd thing that I can imagine.''

However, he said the looming costs of Social Security and Medicare, which make up most of the forecast gap between government income and spending, were an important issue.

``This is a very legitimate point,'' he said.

Uh oh. We all know what that means, don't we? Bye-bye social services...eek. Sure is in line with the current doctrine, isn't it?

(Side note: nice to see Daniels is holding the party line even while he's on his way out.)