Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Is the deficit going down?

One statistic Republicans are touting these days is the FY 2006 deficit of 248 billion dollars - down from 318 billion in FY 2005. President Bush is claiming his promise to cut the deficit in half has been reached three years early. Here's proof, say the Republicans, that their fuzzy math really works, that you can spend like drunken sailors while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy, and somehow the budget will magically balance itself.

Is this really true?

First, we need to look closer at this $248 billion number. During the same period, the national debt increased from $7.9 trillion to $8.5 trillion. This is an increase of around $600 billion - a record increase, not an decrease. Confused? Shouldn't the FY2006 deficit equal the increase in the national debt? There's an easy answer to this quandry. The fact is the $248 billion number is bogus. It leaves out significant portions of the debt that the nation incurred last year. It's a statistic only Washington politicians or Enron accountants could love.

Congressman Bishop, in several of our debates, has said that the Republican leadership is more fiscally responsible than the Blue Dog Democrats. Congressman Jim Cooper, a respected conservative Democrat from Tennessee, has some authority on settling this question. He's one of a handful of members of Congress who supported every one of Congressman Jeff Flake's anti-pork amendments, and was responsible for the mass distribution of the 2005 Financial Report of the United States, an official White House annual report prepared by the Treasury Department (which the White House doesn't want you to read).

Congressman Cooper has suggested a neat test on how committed a politician is to real fiscal sanity. If your local politician frequently uses the bogus $248 billion number in speeches, he's in favor of the status quo, and wants to hide the true magnitude of the problem from the American people. If they talk about the actual increase in the national debt, (or even better, the accrual accounting numbers from the above mentioned Financial Report, which show an even worse picture), then they favor real change and are trying to tell Americans the truth.

Congressman Bishop and President Bush are bragging about the $248 billion number. If you look on the Blue Dog website, you'll see the National Debt Clock, which tracks the national debt - rather than the bogus statistic.

The fact is that President Bush, Congressman Bishop and the Republican leadership are trying to hide the truth from the American people for political gain. It's the height of irresponsibility to not tell the truth about something as critical as America's looming fiscal crisis.

After listing the frightening facts about the true nature of our unfunded obligations, including the fact that the nation's top auditor, Comptroller General David M. Walker, couldn't even offer an opinion on the state of the nation's finances because the Government's books are so messed up, Congressman Cooper wrote the following:

"Economists politely call many of these trends 'unsustainable'. I call them the road to ruin. And this information is not a partisan attack; this comes from an official document of the U.S. Government issued by the Bush Administration itself."

So tell me again, Congressman Bishop: Who are the real fiscal conservatives?

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