If you know to play U.S. budget rules like a violin.
President Barack Obama told Congress in passing this week he might need more money than lawmakers have already approved to stabilize banks and pull the economy out of the ditch.
How much? His budget virtuoso Peter Orszag said on Thursday he could support buying up to $750 billion in bad assets but only needed to set aside $250 billion to do it.
Regular US budget rules assume government credit subsidies will recoup some of their value. Appropriators budget for such items according to how much they think the government will lose — not the full amount of the credit.
Orszag explained his thinking on Thursday:
“Honest budgeting suggests, when you pay a dollar for a financial asset, that doesn’t make the government worse off by a dollar,” he said at a news conference. “It’s not the same thing as a net cost of a dollar, because you are getting something in exchange for it.”