Saturday, October 28, 2006

Had Enough?

There's nothing like a little Molly Ivins to cut through the truthiness coming out of the White House. Her latest column skewers the boasting about the economy.

I just love listening to the Bushies play with numbers. When Bush took over in 2001, he had predicted a surplus of $516 billion for fiscal year 2006. Last week, the administration announced a 2006 deficit of $248 billion, missing its projection for this year by $764 billion. Bush said the numbers are "proof that pro-growth economic policies work" and are "an example of sound fiscal policies here in Washington."

This is highly reminiscent of Dick Cheney's recent observation about the Iraqi government, "If you look at the general, overall situation, they're doing remarkably well."

Bush's main talking point on the budget is that he "cut the deficit in half" -- that would be from 2004, the year the White House inflated the projected deficit for political reasons. Even conservatives disagree. Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation said, "The White House has a track record of projecting budget numbers to be a lot worse than they end up, which therefore helps them defeat the gloomy expectations and declare victory." If Bush does manage to make the tax cuts permanent, it will add more than $3 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The federal budget would be virtually in balance if there had been no tax cuts.

Bush's version of "doing remarkably well" includes a trade gap -- now a record $69.9 billion -- up 2.7 percent since July. "Short of a big correction in consumer spending, the best we can hope for is that the trade deficit stabilizes," Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital, told

Just to give you an idea of how dependable the Bush numbers are, the Department of Health and Human Services put out a press release a few weeks ago telling senior citizens they will have "new options with low costs" and that monthly premiums in '07 will be the same as in '06.

"The Medicare prescription drug benefit ... just keeps getting better," burbled HHS. They seem to have been taking too much in the way of prescription drugs. Rep. Henry Waxman, one of the most singularly useful members of Congress, found that average premiums will actually increase by over 10 percent next year. And for the lowest-priced plans, average premiums will be up over 44 percent. "It is not merely confusing arithmetic, it is deceptive advertising," said Waxman.

National pollsters keep telling us that the Iraq War is the number one issue on voters' minds as we approach the election, but I suspect that's just because the average voter hasn't quite made the conscious connection between the federal expenditures for the prosecution of that war and the fact that his/her family is now forced to eat macaroni and cheese three nights a week instead of just one. Still, there is a certain restiveness among a lot of voters that suggests that connection is beginning to surface.

Ms Ivins concludes this October 24, 2006 column by asking the right question:

Bush's remarkably good economy is only good for the richest -- for the rest of us, incomes are stagnant and education and health care costs are skyrocketing. The Republican Congress blindly rubber-stamps policies designed to help only a few. Are you better off than you were six years ago?


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