The big hole in Obama’s budget plan
Did the White House A/V dude load the wrong file into Obamaâ€™s teleprompter? While the presidentâ€™s class-warfare attack on Paul Ryanâ€™s â€śPath to Prosperityâ€ť would probably have earned rousing applause at a Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the speech failed to accomplish its advertised purpose: outlining Obamaâ€™s long-term blueprint to avoid a debt crisis.
Even if a) his doubling-down on Obamacareâ€™s unproven cost controls works and b) his trillion-dollar tax increases donâ€™t slow the economy, this new plan only stabilizes government debt as a share of the economy for maybe a dozen years. After that, the march to financial crisis continues apace.
Of course, if Obama had actually offered a multi-decade blueprint, like Ryan did, he would have had to concede that thereâ€™s no way he can pay for all his spending over the long term without Washington raising taxes on the middle-class and probably instituting a value-added tax. (On that count, one nonpartisan budget expert told me, the Obama plan is â€śridiculous.â€ť) As I wrote a few days ago:
The president is also promising a long-term fix. The further out one goes, however, the less feasible it is to spare the middle class as Obama promises. White House economists reckon Americaâ€™s aging population â€“ and its healthcare needs — means government will need to be bigger than its post-World War Two average of around 21 percent of GDP. (And this actually assumes Obamacare’s cost controls work.)
Yet the U.S. tax system has rarely generated anywhere near so much revenue as a share of output, much less two to four points higher or more. And it sure can’t by just taxing the “rich.” In that scenario, a value-added tax hitting everyone could well be needed. A 10-point VAT, layered onto the current system, would generate $3 trillion in revenue over ten years. (Again, assuming no negative economic impact.)
Now thatâ€™s no way to launch a reelection campaign. Itâ€™s also no way to win the economic future. Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund kvetched that the White House had no credible plan in place to cut U.S. debt. Some 24 hours later, it still doesnâ€™t.