More on Obama and the fantasy surplus

Yup, still wrong

Since writing about Jeff Rosen’s fantasy surplus, which President Obama did not turn into a deficit, I’ve read two other good follow-ups I’d like to point out here.

The first is by Paul Krugman (yes, that Krugman). He begins by thanking Jonathan Chait – who wrote this piece – for reading National Review so the rest of us don’t have to, which of course is unfair but it is classic Krugman. He moves on to pointing out what should be common knowledge to anyone familiar with the CBO:

I mean, even if you don’t know anything about CBO baselines, I do think that even ex-Bushies are aware of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, and know that this has some implications for the budget.

And I would also imagine that even loyal Bushies understand that a CBO baseline is not a realistic prediction. CBO is required to construct its baseline using existing law, even if everyone knows that the law is likely to change; it also forecasts discretionary spending based on a no-change assumption, which is unrealistic given growing population and a growing economy. To make itself useful, CBO always accompanies its baseline with alternative scenarios intended to be more like what might actually happen; anyone who does budget discussions without using those alternative scenarios is faking it.

I wholeheartedly agree. It is as if Rosen’s entire column is predicated on no one clicking on the link to the CBO report in question and reading it themselves.

The second follow-up comes in the form of a graph, courtesy of the more tactful Jared Bernstein, who makes a very good point here:

I.e., not only does Rosen have to assume you won’t bother reading the actual 2008 CBO report, but he’s also pretty sure you wouldn’t read the 2009 CBO report released before Barack Obama took office.

Really, though, this exercise by the former Bush administration budget advisor probably isn’t even worth all the attention. If it wasn’t for the existence of other formerly fringe, yet now widely accepted ideas in more prominent circles, Rosen’s amateurish attempt at rewriting history would be ignored.


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