James Pethokoukis

More Washington budget gimmickry

November 27, 2009

Karl Rove makes a good point:

The administration says it is now instructing agencies to either freeze spending or propose 5% cuts in their budgets for next year. This won’t add up to much unless agencies use the budgets they had before the stimulus inflated their spending as their baseline in calculating their cuts.

The Afghanistan war surtax gambit

November 24, 2009

Why is passing healthcare reform so difficult? One big reason is that Democrats are trying to pay for a broad-based new entitlement without enacting a broad-based new tax.

PAYGO and pretend fiscal responsibility

November 23, 2009

Ed Yardeni calls it on PAYGO:

Too bad that there are so many devils in the details. Obama’s proposal for fiscal discipline totally exempts “discretionary spending” for defense, education, environmental protection and many other programs. Normal increases in entitlement spending (more beneficiaries, higher health costs, etc.) also aren’t covered. In other words, the increase in Social Security and Medicare spending resulting from the impending retirement of baby boomers doesn’t count. Congress did operate under self-imposed PAYGO rules during FY1991-FY2002, and frequently skirted them. The statute was then allowed to expire. So here we are with Mr. Obama paying lip service to fiscal disciple with yet another campaign speech.

Afternoon speed round

November 17, 2009

Some of the best things I read today:

1) Tyler Cowen gives his version of healthcare reform. Ideas 3-10 are particularly strong.

Is Obama planning a $3 trillion income tax increase?

November 17, 2009

Did I just see a trial balloon launched? Over at a Wall Street Journal conference, Christina Romer, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers had this to say about deficit reduction:

China questions costs of U.S. healthcare reform

November 16, 2009

Guess what? It turns out the Chinese are kind of curious about how President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plans would impact America’s huge fiscal deficit. Government officials are using his Asian trip as an opportunity to ask the White House questions. Detailed questions.

Stan Collender takes issue with me over TARP. Aieee!

November 13, 2009

Budget guru, raconteur and helluva nice guy Stan Collender takes issue with my recent TARP post over at his must-read Capitol Gains and Games blog. I wrote that

Using TARP to pay down deficit? The math doesn’t add up

November 12, 2009

First, the nub of the WH idea:

The White House is looking to cut its budget deficit by using some unspent funds from the U.S. government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Can a special commission stanch America’s red ink?

November 10, 2009

I spent all morning at a Senate Budget Committee hearing looking at how to create a special commission that would devise a plan to fix America’s long-term budget shortfall. This would be like the base-closing commission where a panel — made up mostly of senators and congressman — would submit a plan to Congress that would have to be voted on — up or down, no amendments.

Dem healthcare reform fails to bend the curve

November 10, 2009

If you care about bending the curve of long-term healthcare costs – downward, I should emphasize – then it is tough not to conclude that Democratic efforts at healthcare reform are a failure. The essential money-sucking structure of US healthcare would remain intact. As the NYTimes finally figures out: