Friday, October 29, 2010

The Government We Deserve | Beyond Cynicism V

I'm just about done explaining to friends who asked about my general approval for President Obama's performance during his first 20 months in office. This is not because I'm running out of things to say but because I suspect I have more answer than my friends had question and I don't want to be more obnoxious than I've already been. Throughout I've included links to supporting documentation, analysis and, where appropriate, financial figures. There's a thoughtful overview by Tom Dickinson in the October 28 issue of Rolling Stone.


With the Obama administration, we know where we stand financially.

Between 2001 and 2009, the Bush administration spent on the order of one trillion off-budget US dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (These expenditures were in addition to the $700ish billion in annual budgeted defense spending — Stiglitz + Bilmes now project the direct and indirect costs of prosecuting those wars will drive the ultimate financial cost to five trillion dollars, give or take a trillion).

Setting aside the question of whether those wars (either, neither or both) were justified, a trillion dollars committed outside the budget while at the same time acting to reduce revenues is a significant exercise in deficit spending for people who claim to be fiscal conservatives.

At the very least — and I think the news is considerably better than the very least — Mr. Obama’s budgeting is above-board; including good faith projections of costs nobody particularly wants to look at.

Some of my friends blamer the messenger for bad news about the deficit and steadfastly refuse to give him credit for substantive deficit reduction activities like the cost savings built into recent health care reforms.

In my view, fiscal conservatives could learn a thing or two about budget transparency from this president.

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