The New, New Math

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Last year, when lobbying for a giant tax cut, the Bush
administration walked a delicate tightrope: warn the public that
the economy was heading into a recession (in order to prepare them
for the inevitable and to blame it on the preceding administration)
but assure them that, whatever happened, giant surpluses would
never, ever diminish (in order to persuade them that there would be
plenty of money for a back-loaded tax cut). Economy bad, budget
good. Now that it's been more than one year since the tax cut, the
administration needs to start taking credit for the inevitable
recovery while still explaining away the budget deficit, dramatized
most recently in the latest CBO budget forecast. Hence the
evolution of a new line: economy good, budget bad. "The recession
has caused revenues to fall short of their targets," asserted White
House spokesman Ari Fleischer. But doesn't the CBO finger the tax
cut as a major cause of long-term deficits? "No," Fleischer
insisted, "the president views tax cuts as one of the reasons the
economy is coming back." But if the economy's coming back, why do
we still have projections of long-term deficits? Oh, yes--the
recession.

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