GOP Bashed Obama Budget Using Bush Era Numbers

GOP Bashed Obama Budget Using Bush Era Numbers

As part of the alternative budget rollout on Tuesday, Rep. Paul Ryan published in a Wall Street Journal op-ed a chart plotting out the spending projections between the "Democratic Budgets" and "Republican Alternative."

The ominous graph gives the perception of government spending run amok, with the blue Democratic line rising precipitously over the course of the next 60 years; the red Republican line stays stable and even falls.


There is only one problem: the numbers were projected some six months before Obama took office; eight months before he introduced a budget.

Put together by the Republican staff of the House Budget Committee, the chart bases its lines on "out-year" numbers from the Congressional Budget Offices "Long-Term Alternative Fiscal Scenario." But an official with the CBO confirms to the Huffington Post that no such projections have been run for the Obama budget.

"We do a ten-year budget window," said the official. "We did a projection at the end of January on the estimated cost of debt service out to 2019... [But] I'm not aware that we have done the long-term budget impacts of the President's budget. That would be a surprise to me."

Indeed, the one analysis that the CBO conducted of the Obama budget projected costs and revenues through 2019. The publication that Ryan was referencing, his office confirmed, was one conducted on his behalf in May 2008, when the budget was George W. Bush's.

Entitled, "The Long-Term Economic Effects of Some Alternative Budget Policies," that document looked at the potential economic effects of three scenarios: "allowing federal debt to climb" as projected by a wholly different December 2007 CBO report, "slowing the growth of deficits and then eliminating them over the next several decades," and "using higher income tax rates alone to finance increases in spending" from that December 07 report.

It was under the first of these three scenarios that the CBO projected "that the federal budget deficit and federal debt held by the public would rise sharply," from "37 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2007 to more than 290 percent in 2050."

Reached by phone, a spokesman for Ryan acknowledged that CBO did not score Obama's budget on a 75-year window. Nor could the document put together in May 2008 be a direct analysis of the president's budget proposal. "Clearly, Obama wasn't in office then," said Angela Kuck.

The graph, she added, was based on the premise (made by the CBO and assumed from Obama's proposal) that entitlements, health care reform, and other major programs would go unaddressed in this administration. Under this scenario, there is a convergence between government spending projections that the CBO charted in May 2008 (and thereafter) and that Republicans believe will mark Obama's presidency.

"What you are seeing here is the baby boomer's retiring," said Kuck. "And if you are not going to address those programs then it is fair to say" that Obama's budget will follow the CBO's projection. "Though that would not be the only factor... Health care, the down payment to that, and other items will also add to the mandatory spending."

"You have to remember that nearly 50 percent of budget is mandatory spending," she added, "and he doesn't change that."

(h/t to Conor Clarke who has been pursuing this same story over at The Atlantic)

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