Diary

Obama's Just $4.3Trillion Short

Alan Reynolds points out that Barack Obama’s math just doesn’t add up:

The new president, whoever he is, will start out facing a budget deficit of at least $1 trillion, possibly much more. Sen. Obama has nonetheless promised to devote another $1.32 trillion over the next 10 years to several new or expanded refundable tax credits and a special exemption for seniors, according to the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center (TPC). He calls this a “middle-class tax cut,” while suggesting the middle class includes 95% of those who work.

Mr. Obama’s proposed income-based health-insurance subsidies, tax credits for tiny businesses, and expanded Medicaid eligibility would cost another $1.63 trillion, according to the TPC. Thus his tax rebates and health insurance subsidies alone would lift the undisclosed bill to future taxpayers by $2.95 trillion — roughly $295 billion a year by 2012. But that’s not all. Mr. Obama has also promised to spend more on 176 other programs, according to an 85-page list of campaign promises (actual quotations) compiled by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. The NTUF was able to produce cost estimates for only 77 of the 176, so its estimate is low. Excluding the Obama health plan, the NTUF estimates that Mr. Obama would raise spending by $611.5 billion over the next five years; the 10-year total (aside from health) would surely exceed $1.4 trillion, because spending typically grows at least as quickly as nominal GDP.

A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. Altogether, Mr. Obama is promising at least $4.3 trillion of increased spending and reduced tax revenue from 2009 to 2018 — roughly an extra $430 billion a year by 2012-2013.

The irreplaceable Jennifer Rubin notes that a presidential campaign firing on all cylinders would have seized on this earlier and made an issue of it. For those who remember Bill Clinton’s empty promises of middle-class tax cuts and the tax increases that followed, this is very familiar.

Of course, steep tax increases on middle-income wage earners are only one way that Obama could address this shortfall. He could also choose to forego many of his campaign promises, or to push for the sort of easy-money policies that would allow a new round of inflation to wipe the books clean.

Would it be too much to ask before election day which one it will be?