On Monday the White House released the President's proposed $2.9 trillion federal budget for fiscal year 2008 along with proposals the administration says will balance the budget by 2012. As a new analysis from Citizens for Tax Justice explains, the President's plan relies on various tricks in order to come to the conclusion that Congress can make permanent the Bush tax breaks while also balancing the budget. First, the President includes in his revenue estimates the Social Security surplus, which is projected to be $248 billion in 2012. But that surplus, which is officially saved in the Social Security Trust Fund, is supposed to be used to pay down the national debt so that the federal government is better able to keep paying benefits when the huge baby-boom generation retires. That's the reason Social Security is currently taking in more money than it pays out in benefits. Keeping Social Security separate would show, according to the President's numbers, a deficit of $187 billion in 2012.
But it gets worse. The second trick the President uses is an assumption that Congress will pass massive cuts in vital services - even bigger cuts than were ever enacted when the Republicans ran Congress. The plan actually assumes that spending on defense and homeland security in 2012 will be down 22 percent, as a share of GDP, from its 2006 level, and all other appropriations will be down 29 percent, as a share of GDP, from its 2006 level. Even though Congress is unlikely to make such cuts, they should be taken very seriously in the sense that they begin to show the true costs of the tax breaks. If the Bush tax breaks are made permanent, cuts in government services of this magnitude are only the begining of what will inevitably follow. The Coalition on Human Needs provides a description of these proposed cuts in services
There are several other faulty assumptions used in the administration's projections. One is that revenues will grow more than they have over the past six years. The more realistic revenue projections from the Congressional Budget Office for 2012 are $155 billion lower than the administration's revenue projections.