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Friday, March 27, 2009

You know, I thought it would be impossible to make George W. Bush look like a model of fiscal restraint.

Denouncing an "orgy of spending and enormous deficits," he turned to John McCain during their presidential debates last fall and said, "We have had, over the last eight years, the biggest increases in deficit spending and national debt in our history…Now we have a half-trillion deficit annually…and Sen. McCain voted for four out of five of those George Bush budgets."

That was then, this is now:

Just how consequential was made clear last week in a little-noticed conference call featuring Budget Director Peter Orszag. Orszag was trying to explain to reporters how the Obama administration calculated its rather rosy forecasts for economic growth. Near the end of the call, he was asked whether deficits along the lines of those predicted by the Congressional Budget Office are sustainable.

Orszag at first dodged the question, saying he was sure the final Obama budget will "reflect a fiscally sustainable path." But the questioner persisted: Are those deficits sustainable? Relenting, Orszag said such deficits, in the range of five percent of the Gross Domestic Product, "would lead to rising debt-to-GDP ratios in a manner that would ultimately not be sustainable."

I'm not exactly a fiscal conservative. My views on government spending are pretty lackadaisical: it has to be (1) moral/ethical, (2) constitutional and (3) paid for. I'll avoid the taffy pulls on the first two and simply note that if you can't agree we're in serious trouble on (3), you need to get to an emergency room ASAP.

[Thanks to Serge for the Demotivator poster and Donald McClarey for the graph.]

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