Obama banishing 4 Bush accounting gimmicks: Delivers Transparency

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A recent NYTimes article details President Barack Obama’s determination to bring truth and transparency to our nation’s budget.  For his first annual budget next week, President Obama has banned four accounting gimmicks that President George W. Bush used to make deficit projections look smaller. The price of more honest bookkeeping: A budget that is $2.7 trillion deeper in the red over the next decade than it would otherwise appear, according to administration officials.   Eeek!  Well, at least we know where the starting point is going to be.

The new accounting involves spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and the cost of disaster responses.  But the biggest adjustment will deal with revenues from the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to prevent the wealthy from using tax shelters to avoid paying any income tax.
Mr. Obama’s banishment of the gimmicks, which have been widely criticized, is in keeping with his promise to run a more transparent government.    

“The president prefers to tell the truth,” he said, “rather than make the numbers look better by pretending.”   —Peter R. Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Some other details worth noting:

President Bush never included the costs of his wars in the Budget.  He would routinely ask Congress for supplemental appropriations during the year.  For Medicare, Mr. Bush routinely budgeted less than actual costs for payments to physicians, although he and Congress regularly waived a law mandating the lower reimbursements for fear that doctors would quit serving beneficiaries in protest.  Mr. Obama will budget $401 billion over 10 years for higher costs and interest on the debt. He will also budget $273 billion in that period for natural disasters. Every year the government pays billions for disaster relief, but presidents and lawmakers have long ignored budget reformers’ calls for a contingency account to reflect that certainty.

Making government responsible and transparent?  What a welcome concept!  Nice Job, Mr. President!

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