For decades, presidential administrations have come up with budget figures that don’t always jibe with those which are compiled by the Congressional Budget Office, the federal agency that provides budget information to Congress. Not surprisingly, White House spending and deficit figures usually differ on the optimistic side from those of the CBO, which takes a more rational, business-like and non-partisan view of spending in the United States.
But seldom has the chasm between the two been as large as what the CBO projects over the next decades, as opposed to what the White House claims. Congressional Budget Office figures indicate the country will run a $9.5-trillion deficit, while the Obama administration says it will be only $7.2 trillion. Sometimes it’s easy to get flummoxed by the huge figures tossed around in Washington, so here’s what $9.5 trillion looks like in real numbers: $9,500,000,000,000. That’s a lot of zeroes, eh? And that’s just the deficit, not total spending. It makes us long for the days of Sen. Everett Dirkson, the Illinois lawmaker who served as Senate Minority Leader until 1969 and has often been credited with the line, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” The CBO also says Obama’s health care plan will cost far more than the White House projected and that it significantly underestimated the tab.
Meanwhile, many Washington pols, both Democrats and Republicans, still continue to ignore the recommendations of the bipartisan Deficit Reduction Committee which President Obama appointed and which says entitlement spending must be addressed before any real spending progress can be made. That’s a sad commentary on the continued state of “business as usual” in Washington.