The budget touts a deficit reduction of $1.1 trillion over the next decade.After playing those sorts of games, Obama ignores the real budgetary problems we face - entitlements. He casts aside the recommendations of his own debt commission.
Where to begin? Even if you buy this number, Obama's budget adds $7.2 trillion in new debt over that same decade.
But there's a catch. The administration assumes economic growth levels higher than private economists and the Congressional Budget Office predict. Without this rosy scenario - using CBO growth estimates - $1.7 trillion of revenue disappears and U.S. debt increases $9 trillion over the next decade. This is almost $1 trillion every year.
Assume you buy the rosy scenario. Of what does this $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction consist? Painful cuts? Think again. It consists of $1.6 trillion in tax hikes, plus an odd $328 billion of some mysterious bipartisan funding for a transportation trust fund (gas taxes, one supposes) - for a grand total of nearly $2 trillion in new taxes.
Classic Obama debt reduction: Add $2 trillion in new taxes, then add $1 trillion in new spending and, presto, you've got $1 trillion of debt reduction. It's the same kind of mad deficit accounting in Obamacare: It reduces debt by adding $540 billion in new spending, then adding $770 billion in new taxes. Presto: $230 billion of "debt reduction." Bialystock & Bloom accounting.
And what of those "painful cuts" Obama is making to programs he really cares about? The catch is that these "cuts" are from a hugely inflated new baseline created by the orgy of spending in Obama's first two years. These were supposedly catastrophe-averting, anti-Depression emergency measures. But post-recession they remain in place. As a result, discretionary non-defense budget levels today are 24 percent higher than before Obama - 84 percent higher if you add in the stimulus money.
Which is why the supposedly painful cuts yield spending still at stratospheric levels. After all the cuts, Education Department funding for 2012 remains 35 percent higher than in the last pre-emergency pre-Obama year, 2008. Environmental Protection Agency: 18 percent higher. Energy Department: 22 percent higher. Consider even the biggest "painful cut" headline of all, the 50 percent cut in fuel subsidies for the poor. Barbaric, is it not? Except for the fact that the subsidies had been doubled from 2008 levels. The draconian cut is nothing but a return to normal pre-recession levels.
A more cynical budget is hard to imagine. This one ignores the looming debt crisis, shifts all responsibility for serious budget-cutting to the Republicans - for which Democrats are ready with a two-year, full-artillery demagogic assault - and sets Obama up perfectly for reelection in 2012.
Obama fancies his happy talk, debt-denial optimism to be Reaganesque. It's more Louis XV. Reagan begat a quarter-century of prosperity; Louis, the deluge.
Moreover, unlike Obama, Louis had the decency to admit he was forfeiting the future. He never pretended to be winning it.