Democrats try to hide increased debt

David Broder:

With a bit of bookkeeping legerdemain borrowed from the Bush administration, the Democratic Congress is about to perform a cover-up on the most serious threat to America's economic future.

That threat is not the severe recession, tough as that is for the families and businesses struggling to make ends meet. In time, the recession will end, and last week's stock market performance hinted that we may not have to wait years for the recovery to begin.

The real threat is the monstrous debt resulting from the slump in revenue and the staggering sums being committed by Washington to rescuing embattled banks and homeowners -- and the absence of any serious strategy for paying it all back.

The Congressional Budget Office sketched the dimensions of the problem on March 20, and Congress reacted with shock. The CBO said that over the next 10 years, current policies would add a staggering $9.3 trillion to the national debt -- one-third more than President Obama had estimated by using much more optimistic assumptions about future economic growth.

As far as the eye could see, the CBO said, the debt would continue to grow by about $1 trillion a year because of a structural deficit between the spending rate, averaging 23 percent of gross domestic product, and federal revenue at 19 percent.

...

Republicans on the budget committees offered cuts that were larger and, in some but not all instances, more realistic.

But the main device the Democratic budgeteers employed was simply to shrink the budget "window" from 10 years to five. Instantly, $5 trillion in debt disappeared from view, along with the worry that long after the recession is past, the structural deficit would continue to blight the future of young working families.

The Democrats did not invent this gimmick. They borrowed it from George W. Bush, who turned to it as soon as his inherited budget surpluses withered with the tax cuts and recession of 2001-02. But Obama had promised a more honest budget and said that this meant looking at the long-term consequences of today's tax and spending decisions.

...

The roadblock in chief is Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House. She has made it clear that her main goal is to protect Social Security and Medicare from any significant reforms. Pelosi has not forgotten how Democrats benefited from the 2005-06 fight against Bush's effort to change Social Security. Her party, which had lost elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004, found its voice and its rallying cry to "Save Social Security," and Pelosi is not about to allow any bipartisan commission to take that issue away from her control.

The price for her obduracy is being paid in the rigging of the budget process. The larger price will be paid by your children and grandchildren, who will inherit a future-blighting mountain of debt.

Cooking the books can't change the reality that is going to be more than just a political problem when the bill comes due. What the Democrats are really doing is what the borrowers who bought more house than they could afford did, and we are all having to pay the price for that already.

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