There’s an internal contradiction in the way that Keynesian-oriented economists and policymakers address the federal budget situation. I’ve noticed it over and over. A passage in a Washington Post op-ed today by Mohamed El-Erian of Pimco captures it perfectly:
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said that he wanted an American economy that is “built to last.” Today’s release of his fiscal 2013 budget proposal shows that the president still thinks he can build economic prosperity with more spending, taxes, and debt. Those are the building materials for an economic time-bomb that will explode on future generations.
The new federal budget includes a range of accounting maneuvers to cast the administration’s 10-year projections in the best possible light. Senate Republicans point out some of President Obama’s funky accounting here. But note that the George W. Bush administration also used tricks to make deficit forecasts look more optimistic.
I don’t recall ever agreeing with the left-liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), but their new paper on the drawbacks of the federal government switching to biennial budgeting is a good read. Congressional Republicans, including House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-AL), are the chief proponents of switching to a biennial budget cycle. By providing (qualified) support to the CBPP paper, I’m hoping to demonstrate to would-be GOP naysayers that criticism of biennial budgeting isn’t confined to one area of the ideological spectrum.