Monday, September 19, 2011

And the cycle begins anew [Updated]

The Obama administration released a fresh deficit plan today.  That shouldn't be news, because it also had a deficit plan in March, and August, and we've been through this whole rigmarole before, and everyone knows that the administration's plans will necessarily include tax hikes and therefore cannot pass, and etc. etc.  But nonetheless it's emblazoned across the top of the New York Times website, so let's take a look, shall we?

The New York Times article is less than clear, but it looks like a top-line figure of $4.5 trillion.  About $1.1 trillion of that comes from dialing back the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Another $500 billion or so are from entitlement cuts -- mostly Medicare.  No changes to the eligibility age, thankfully.  The article also mentions $1.5 trillion in tax increases.  This leaves a whopping $1.5 trillion unaccounted for.  One has to assume that comes out of discretionary spending.  To that, I say this: urrrggghhhhhhhh.  Squeezing milk from a stone, and all that.  At some point, "discretionary spending cuts" translate into "Oh, you liked having national parks?  Too bad."

Anyway, my verdict: the $3 trillion in savings that's reported isn't that bad.  The missing $1.5 trillion is sort of scary, though.

On the other hand, it's possible the New York Times is just screwing up its numbers.  Because you'll note that 1.5 trillion plus 1.1 trillion plus 500 billion equals 3 trillion, and the paper's top headline reads "Obama Plan Includes 3 Trillion in Spending Cuts."  It would be odd to lead with anything but the top-line figure, so it's possible that the paper's headline writers have just bought wholly into the Republican framing of the deficit issue, and are using "deficit reduction" and "spending cuts" as synonyms.

Update: Holy cow, I was right about the second bit.  The total figure really is $3 trillion.  J-school strikes again!  Math: who needs it?

Anyway, the more important takeaway is that the Obama administration has totally given up on trying to appease Republicans, because this plan is something like 3-1 in favor of tax increases. (After you exclude the savings from ending the wars, anyway. Which is the only fair way of doing it.)

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