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Don’t Mention the You Know What

Robert J. Samuelson wonders when Obama’s budget will be labeled “irresponsible”?

From 2010 to 2019, Obama projects annual deficits totaling $7.1 trillion; that’s atop the $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009. By 2019, the ratio of publicly held federal debt to gross domestic product (GDP, or the economy) would reach 70%, up from 41% in 2008. That would be the highest since 1950 (80%).

The Congressional Budget Office, using less optimistic economic forecasts, raises these estimates. The 2010-19 deficits would total $9.3 trillion; the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2019 would be 82%.

But wait: Even these totals may be understated. By various estimates, Obama’s health plan might cost $1.2 trillion over a decade; he has budgeted only $635 billion.

Samuelson contends these figures have been “ignored” because of the promised tax cut to 95% of Americans and the immediate economic crisis. But neither Republicans nor the tea party protests have ignored this. It is the focus (together with their bailout-animus) of their ire toward the administration. And independent voters haven’t ignored it either, registering disapproval in poll after poll about the growth in spending and debt.

The groups that have ignored it — the Democrats in Congress and the media cheerleaders — are committed to ignoring it because it looms as a barrier to enactment of the new New Deal. The notion that we can’t afford what we have already committed to spend, let alone anything more, is a dilemma they’d rather sweep under the rug.

The president let’s it slip out now and then that the growing deficit is “unsustainable,” but unless he’s prepared to once again disappoint his base it will continue to be the least discussed and most important economic issue of his presidency.



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