This August, while everyone in Washington was away, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) quietly published its latest update on our nation's fiscal situation. It's one of the CBO's more enlightening -- and frightening -- efforts. If you read the report carefully, you'll discover that however badly you might have thought President Bush was managing the government, things are actually much worse.
I got a call from MCI the other night. It came just as I was finishing up a paper attacking a multibillion-dollar tax loophole that MCI is trying to create for itself. Having already been surprised at being contacted by AT&T and Verizon on the issue that same day, I wondered how MCI had found out, too. But my paranoia was unjustified. MCI's call was merely an attempt to persuade me to change my long-distance service.
So Congress passed the Third Annual Awful Bush Tax Cut. It was a close vote in the Senate, with Vice President Dick Cheney breaking a 50-to-50 tie. But both sides agree on one thing: The cost of the bill over the next decade will be far more than its advertised $350 billion price. A trillion dollars or so is more plausible.
As I write this, the House has just passed its version of the Third Annual Bush Tax Cut and the Senate is about to debate its bill. Both measures are irresponsible, gimmick-ridden, economically wrongheaded and heavily tilted toward the rich. President Bush would accept no less. You may know some of this from the newspapers. But you've probably never heard about the enormous corporate tax cut in the House bill.
My friend and adversary Bruce Bartlett of the rabidly anti-tax National Center for Policy Analysis was tapped by Philadelphia public radio to defend President Bush's enacted and proposed tax cuts. Bartlett spoke glowingly about the tax cuts' sharp tilt in favor of the wealthy, and admitted that they're being financed entirely by borrowing. But that's no problem, he reassured listeners, because budget deficits don't really matter. Complaints about Bush leaving a crushing debt burden on our children are "not correct," Bartlett argued, because our children can just pass the debt on to their kids, who will pass it on to their kids, etc., etc., etc. "We'll simply pass this on forever," he said.