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Fantasy Budget

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 7, 2006; 1:36 PM

In the coverage of President Bush's proposed $2.77 trillion budget this morning, reporters are making no bones about the fact that it bears little relationship to reality.

For one, the budget is based on absurd assumptions and intentional oversights. For another, few if any of its most controversial provisions have any realistic chance of survival.

Why the exercise in fantasy? Well, what else are you going to do when -- in reality -- you've boxed yourself into a corner?

Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush's budget blueprint would bring the federal government's budget deficit under control by decade's end. But to do that without raising taxes, the White House would need a sweeping tax reform that it has avoided proposing and a swift end to the war in Iraq.

"The budget plan for fiscal 2007 underscores what budget analysts of all political stripes have been saying for years: The goals of balancing the budget, waging a global fight against terrorism and making Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent may be fundamentally at odds. . . .

"Those factors led Goldman Sachs economists to tell clients yesterday that the deficit forecasts are 'unrealistic.' . . .

"'This budget is not going to happen,' said Stanley E. Collender, a federal budget analyst at Financial Dynamics Business Communications. 'Of all the budgets I've seen recently, this is the one going nowhere the fastest.'"

Edmund L. Andrews writes in the New York Times: "On paper, President Bush's budget seems to meet his promise of cutting the federal deficit in half by the time he leaves office.

"But in practice, the budget is much less realistic than it appears because it omits nearly a half-trillion dollars in costs that are likely to be incurred over the next five years.

"The omissions include any costs for the war in Iraq after 2007, any additional reconstruction costs for New Orleans after 2006 and any plan for preventing a huge expansion in the alternative minimum tax after the end of this year."

Michael Kranish writes in the Boston Globe: "Analysts questioned a number of assumptions in Bush's budget, such as his assertion that the government will take in $4 billion over five years from oil drilling in the environmentally sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Congress has rejected the president's proposal for such drilling.

"Bush's budget for fiscal 2007 also revives his failed plan to provide private Social Security investment accounts. The budget does not include details on how he would pay for those accounts."


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