Sunday, June 26, 2011

GOP position on the deficit is not about the money


Video - Uncle Jay presents the not funny truth about our useless Congress

TPM | If congress does nothing, the deficit will disappear. On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office released its updated long-term budget forecast, which looked surprisingly like the previous version of its long-term budget forecast.

It showed, as one might expect, that if the Bush tax-cuts remain in effect and Medicare and Medicaid spending isn't constrained in some way, the country will topple into a genuine fiscal crisis -- not the fake one the Congress is pretending the country's in right now.

Republicans, of course, seized on that particular projection, and claimed (a bit ridiculously) that it proved the government must adopt their precise policy views: major spending cuts, particularly to entitlement programs.

While all this -- from the findings to the politicization of them -- is perfectly expected, the forecast also presents another opportunity to remind people that the medium-term budget outlook is perfectly fine if Congress adheres to the law as it's currently written. That means no repealing the health care law, for one, but more significantly it means allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and (unfathomably) allowing Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors to fall to the levels prescribed by the formula Congress wrote almost 15 years ago. In other words, no more "doc fixes."

WaPo | Reporting on the same CBO report, you'd think it was an entirely different document. The national debt will exceed the size of the entire U.S. economy by 2021 — and balloon to nearly 200 percent of GDP within 25 years — without dramatic cuts to federal health and retirement programs or steep tax increases, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.

The dire outlook from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office comes as the White House and congressional leaders are locked in negotiations aimed at cutting spending and stabilizing future borrowing. The CBO report highlights the enormity of that task and the immense difficulty of paying off the debt, given an aging population and soaring health-care costs.

WaPo Blog | The Congressional Budget Office just released the latest edition of its long-term budget outlook (pdf), and it shows the same thing as always: If Congress lets the Bush tax cuts expire or offsets their extension, implements the Affordable Care Act as scheduled and makes or offset the Medicare cuts prescribed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act — which CBO calls the “extended baseline scenario” — the national debt will be totally manageable. If Congress passes laws extending the Bush tax cuts without offsetting the cost, repealing the Affordable Care Act and its cost controls and protecting doctors from Medicare cuts without making up the savings elsewhere — the “alternative fiscal scenario” — the national debt will be totally out of control:This is a good time to remind everyone that when you hear politicians telling you that their plan cuts taxes or balances the budget, you always need to ask what baseline they’re using. Almost all the plans on the table, for instance, do less to balance the budget than simply doing nothing. But since they use a version of the “alternative fiscal scenario” as their baseline, they don’t have to admit that before they make the deficit somewhat better, they’re first planning to make it much, much worse. Fist tap Rembom.