Primary Deficits and Our Budget Problems
In the Bush Administration, You See, They Fire the Competent People...

Edmund Andrews on the Bush Budget Submission

He does a good job of laying out what is going on:

In Calculating the Shortfall, Likely Costs Are Left Out - New York Times : WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 -- On paper, President Bush's budget seems to meet his promise of cutting the federal deficit in half by the time he leaves office. But in practice, the budget is much less realistic than it appears because it omits nearly a half-trillion dollars in costs that are likely to be incurred over the next five years. The omissions include any costs for the war in Iraq after 2007, any additional reconstruction costs for New Orleans after 2006 and any plan for preventing a huge expansion in the alternative minimum tax after the end of this year.

And because Mr. Bush's blueprint is limited to the next five years, it offers little guidance on how he would restrain the soaring costs of Medicare and Social Security as the nation's 70 million-plus baby boomers begin to retire in 2008.

If all of the White House proposals and projections are taken at face value, the budget deficit will climb to $423 billion this fiscal year and then shrink to $208 billion by 2009. That would fulfill Mr. Bush's promise to halve the deficit, but only if he manages to avoid the gremlins that have bedeviled his previous plans. The most obvious omission involves the costs of the war in Iraq, which have averaged nearly $100 billion a year since 2003. White House officials said Monday that they planned to ask Congress for an additional $70 billion this fiscal year, on top of the $50 billion it has already approved, and $50 billion for 2007....

Far more significant, however, is Mr. Bush's refusal to deal with an explosion in the alternative minimum tax. Created in 1969 to stop the nation's richest citizens from taking too much advantage of tax breaks, the alternative minimum tax is set to engulf tens of millions of additional families over the next few years. Mr. Bush and Congressional leaders from both parties have promised to prevent that from happening, but Mr. Bush's budget still assumes that the government will reap hundreds of billions of extra dollars from the tax over the next five years....

The White House budget outlines plans to shave about $65 billion from programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps education and housing assistance for low-income families, the elderly and the disabled. But Mr. Bush would extend virtually all of the tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, add new tax breaks to subsidize the purchase of health care, and extend dozens of other expiring tax cuts for businesses and investors. Extending Mr. Bush's basic tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, most of which expire around 2010, would cost about $178 billion over the next five years and $1.35 trillion over the next decade.

Adding on all the other proposals in the budget, including renewing existing tax breaks and expanding tax breaks for programs like health savings accounts, the five-year tally of costs climbs to nearly $300 billion and the 10-year total passes $1.5 trillion...

If I were Edmund, I would have pointed out that it is Bush's *choice* to submit only a five-year budget--Clinton budgets had ten-year projections in them.

I do remember October of 2000, debating one Bush spokesman and asking about the AMT: Would the administration keep the AMT small--in which case its estimates of the revenue costs of its tax cuts were bogus, because the costs were calculated assuming that the AMT would snarf back the lion's share of the tax cuts? Or would the administration allow the AMT to grow--in which case its revenue cost projections were reasonable but its claims of the magnitudes of the tax cuts that upper middle calss people would get were highly bogus?

I didn't get a good answer.