Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Opinion on the Boenher Plan

John Boehner could be a huge political winner here. So says a number of Republican operators and beltway journalists who are much more experienced in observing the political scales that measure such things than I am.

Dana Perino, Charles Krauthammer, John McCain, and Bill Kristol are among those siding with Boehner in his quest to increase the deficit over the next several years to the tune of many hundreds of billions of additional dollars.

Perhaps the passage of Boehner's plan would amount to a huge political victory. I'm not so certain it would be a huge victory for the country.

Boehner and company are willing to accept that the government would assume unfathomable amounts in new debt in exchange for symbolic cuts to future spending increases and the hope that their political adversaries will oblige them with more meaningful cuts on the morrow. (Sure, like that always works out.)

Boehner's plan is clearly less expensive than any plan that would be favored by President Obama, and it is clearly less damaging to the current US economy than any pined for by Harry Reid. However, Boehner's plan does not attack the debt in any meaningful way as it merely would slow the rate of growth of spending by our country's regulatory overlords rather than actually shrinking the debt.

You see, government accounting methods allow for tricks and verbal gymnastics the sort of which led to the collapse of Enron and Worldcom and the incarceration of those who encouraged the accounting. While these accounting tactics are not allowed in the private sector because of the fraud such methods perpetrate, their employment provides the desired obfuscatory cover for politicians who know the government will spend hundreds of billions more next year while making it sound like they will be spending hundreds of billions less.

If this is not the case, why would future increases in the debt ceiling ever be necessary? The way that government accounts for expenditures is a bit different than what we plebs do.

Lets suppose the government planned on spending $2 next year when this year it only spent $1. Along comes a government plan that suggests that rather than spending the additional $1, we should actually be cutting a dime from the budget. You and I look at this and we say, "Gee, we will only be spending 90 cents this year--those politicians are sure cutting back."

But all of that is before you discover that government is using Enron accounting practices. No, that dime taken from the budget is not based on this year's actual spending but instead is based on what government intended to spend next year. In effect, the dime in cuts amounts to an increase of 90 cents in spending above and beyond what was spent this year. Of course, we are not talking about mere dollars here, but trillions of them.

Sadly, this has become a game of blame dodging in which establishment Republicans have determined that it is preferable to be complicit in the possible financial collapse of this country than it is to be blamed for today's comparative crisis in miniature.

Sooner or later this country is going to have to take the hit and every day that it is delayed will make that hit more painful and costly. Ultimately, blame will be assigned indiscriminately regardless of who deserves it most.

It is better, I think, to demand more meaningful cuts today and establish a firm apparatus that guarantees actual cuts for tomorrow.

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